The fallibility of adults is the ultimate lesson Anthony's taking from the events of The Confirmation, but there's also plenty for him to admire in his father, deeply flawed as he is. Like another pop-culture Walt who always had a solution at the ready, Walt knows what he's doing in the professional facet of his life and builds his entire self image around it. An expert carpenter, he implores his son to think about people that make things, a category he would certainly put himself in. Though he has little, he takes great pride in what he does have, especially that tool set, which is given a respectful, generational awe when the viewer finally gets to lay eyes on them. Nelson allows Walt to be many things, making him a recognizable person with myriad strengths and weaknesses.
Nelson assembles an excellent cast starting with his two leads. Owen is one of my favorite actors, and The Confirmation gives me confirmation bias. He gives Walt a weary honesty, a person resigned to accepting what is worst about himself while still retaining his aforementioned pride. In a tossed-off line after a delirium tremens night, he gingerly asks Anthony if he hurt him in the throes of his disease, a touching instance of shame and self-knowledge. As Anthony, Lieberher is now practiced at being shepherded around by respectable actors, adding Owen to a list that includes Bill Murray and Michael Shannon. The rest of the cast is studded with admirable character actors. Patton Oswalt, Robert Forster, and Maria Bello all play bit roles, and they all bring the same sense of decent struggle that Nelson is pushing in Owen.
As a compelling father-son drama, The Confirmation is a well-crafted and thoughtful success. It's also far more understanding of rustic mores than Nebraska, which laughed at many of its subjects. Nelson has his finger on the pulse of small-town America, a needed insight now more than ever. I'll be watching for whatever he does next. B