Confession Review

A debut feature must offer a creative their time to shine. The passion of a director is laid out before an audience, picked apart by the vultures that call themselves critics. I am one such vulture. But it is hard to pick the bones of director Daniel C. Nyiri clean, as there is much to feast on throughout Confession. It is a film that offers up his abilities as a slow-burning director in the thriller market. Fine, but it is the strangeness of the religious tones that never go anywhere and the obvious parallels of good and evil that throw Confession off of its competent pedestal.

With a first act this slow and sometimes uncoordinated, it is hard to gauge how successful Confession will be. It has that amateurish sheen to it, that nervous tension that comes with appearing in or directing a feature film for the first time. These are the moments that introduce us to a cavalcade of characters, none of whom are particularly striking, but Gavin Lyall and Gary C. Stillman stand out as competent, solid draws. There are strong moments to Confession, mired by a need to hold on to the prevalent tones of the genre so far. Character after character is thrown in, with no real rhyme or reason. Abilities range from solid to redundant scenery chewers, and all the pangs of drama, from pregnancy to ailments, death to dire scenarios, are presented thick and fast.

Immediately its message of blind faith comes to fruition. It is a strong message when handled well, and credit to Nyiri, who handles it with a genuine affliction and care. Confession wishes to show that faith in anything is pot luck. Or, at least, that is the initial conception. The man who applies his belief to scratch cards, the hope that one action will lead to a positive outcome for oneself or another. “What if the very existence of a random act was proof it was part of a pattern?”. A good question posed early on, but it is dealt with some generalities that the film could do without. Interviews and detective work thrust us into a tale of trust and random connections to a man accused of murder. I say accused, but he walks into a diner with literal blood on his hands. It is a matter of understanding his state of mind, then, rather than assessing his innocence. Think Mindhunter, but with parallels of spiritualism.

It is often good to see ambition shine through. Where it takes us, that is down to the filmmaker. With Confession, its most rewarding moments are through its aspirations and its attempts at pushing the envelope. Some scenes are of questionable quality. Take the woman struggling when her boyfriend leaves her and she battles cancer. The film jumps the shark here, with its preachy message and need for faith thrown in out of the blue. She does not appear in any relevant capacity again, and her connection to the story is one of happenstance. Perhaps that is the point, and the underlying message of fate and faith makes itself known. Not all these moments are successful, but there is enough here to engage an audience with. Nyiri offers some exceptional scenes and meaningful shot composition from time to time. He must kindle this passion and streamline it so that his thrills are mysterious and his mystery is thrilling. Here, he does not blend the two as much as perhaps he could or should have, he shies away from it entirely sometimes to depend on the faith of the good Lord above. Only God could save some of these moments.

Nyiri has more to offer though, that much is clear throughout his crime-scene investigations and quick-witted detective work. His interrogation scenes are the true core of the film, and it is important that they not only work but offer memorable moments. They do, although it toys with the tone of its characters a tad too much. Its first act does not connect well to these later moments of wordplay and back-and-forth verbal strengths. Not quite veering down the route of “good cop, bad cop” dynamics, thankfully, but the anger and mentality of criminal and copper is analysed well enough to warrant its slower moments. For a first-time outing, Confession isn’t too shabby, but it is rough around the edges and its attempt at blurring so much leaves a confused message and meaning in its wake. At least it tried.

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