Title – Stillwater (2021)
Director – Tom McCarthy (Spotlight)
Cast – Matt Damon, Camille Cottin, Abigail Breslin
Plot – Oklahoma native Bill Baker (Damon) sets up residency in France as he intends to help clear the name of his only daughter Allison (Breslin) who has been jailed for the murder of her partner.
“Life is brutal”
Review by Eddie on 09/12/2021
Since announcing himself as a filmmaker to watch with the wonderfully human indie The Station Agent in 2003, Oscar winning actor turned writer/director Tom McCarthy has had a fairly up and down run when it comes to directional projects, with highs such as the critical and commercial hit Spotlight in 2015 and a massive misstep with 2014’s The Cobbler, with his newest Matt Damon starring film Stillwater an on paper Oscar contender that for various reasons never strikes the highs of the directors best works.
Very loosely based around the Amanda Knox story, Stillwater is heavy McCarthy much like Spotlight was, as he and Damon tell the story of Oklahoma oil rig/construction worker Bill Baker whose daughter Allison (played by Abigail Breslin in her highest profile role in years) is imprisoned in France following a murder she has been accused of committing against her partner, a murder she vehemently disputes.
A slowly paced affair, one that is clearly 20-30 minutes too long in runtime, Stillwater never follows the stereotypical wrongly imprisoned prisoner’s path too freedom route that is usually expected from these type of Hollywood affairs, with no lawyers with a heart of gold or grandstanding moments too be seen as Damon’s simple yet determined Bill sets his sights on helping clear his daughter’s name while also striking up a friendship/relationship with Camille Cottin’s Marseille native Virginie and her younger daughter Maya (a scene stealing Lilou Siauvaud).
It’s a film that suffers from no big moments, there’s no particular standout scenes here that will linger long in the memory and for a tale with such powerful undertones and potentially emotionally charged developments, you wonder if McCarthy held back a little too much in making his understated drama come too life?
What is indisputable however is the fine work of Damon.
In a role that see’s the likeable lead dial it way back to breathe life into Bill, a man with a history of failings and flaws but also a distinctively human soul that deep down wants too do good and be good, Damon’s role in Stillwater is some of the best work from the actor in the last decade and there are many small moments here that in a more energized film could’ve provided Damon with a chance to compete in the upcoming awards season with a turn that strips back all the charisma of the bankable star to nothing more than a truckie cap, some jeans and a determination to do right by his daughter he has failed countless times before.
At days end, Stillwater is a quality production developed by a talented filmmaker and performed by an able bodied cast but a drama that for various reasons can’t overcome its plodding nature and lack of knockout punches.
Final Say –
Too lethargic in delivery and nature, Stillwater can’t become one of the years standout dramas but is worth watching thanks to Damon’s deceptively strong central performance and a few moments that show why McCarthy is a writer/director of such stature.
3 soccer t-shirts out of 5