Penitentia is a powerful tale of morality within the legal system

by Gordon Shelly

“Penitentia” is an indie feature that presents a familiar tale with a conflicted lawyer having to make moral and ethical decisions that will impact both a client and his career. Ale Villacano (Glenn Stanton) is a young, up-and-coming lawyer working at a prestigious law firm with a promising future.

He is engaged to Beth (Kate Flanagan) who also happens to be the daughter of his boss. Ale works as a defense attorney at an upper echelon firm. However, he has a questionable past, which he makes concerted efforts to hide.

Ale’s past, present, and future collide when a previous associate, JD (Rob Wilson), comes looking for help. JD has a sister named Shareen (Natasha Coppola-Shalom) who is currently incarcerated and in need of a lawyer.

Reluctantly, after being advised by his mentor, Ale accepts the case on a pro bono basis and, of course, has taken on much more than expected.

As Ale learns more about Shareen’s case, he finds himself in the type of predicament that forces a person to make decisions impacting his career, his relationship with Beth, and his own morality.

The movie is written and directed by first-time feature director, Chris Lawing, who handles the task with the skill of a seasoned veteran.

“Penitentia” doesn’t break new ground with its storytelling, but Lawing does a fine job of presenting the story he has decided to tell. The movie is well-directed with pacing that keeps the plot moving as Lawing is able to create a complete and satisfying movie in the ninety-minute runtime.

Stanton, in the lead role, performs admirably, giving a nuanced performance, filled with depth and emotion, as his character spirals deeper into a world conflicted by right and wrong.

In a director’s statement on the film’s website, Lawing reveals that this is a deeply personal story to him, inspired by his father, Jim Lawing, himself a civil rights attorney. On the drive to his father’s funeral, Lawing reveals, “that I decided I would make a film in his memory, to honor the things he fought for, the clients and causes he dedicated fifty years of his life as a lawyer to.”

Throughout “Penitentia,” Lawing is able to guide his actors into giving full performances, while telling a personal and compelling story.

“Penitentia” is now streaming and available on various outlets including Amazon.

Gordo’s Grade: B+