Reel Reviews | Stillwater

by Charles Kirkland, Jr.

A father’s trip to France to visit his incarcerated daughter plunges him into a desperate attempt to prove her innocence in Stillwater.

Bill Baker (Matt Damon) is struggling.  His wife has left him.  He is searching for a job and his daughter is in jail, in France.  This time as Bill embarks on one of his regularly scheduled visits to see his daughter, Allison (Abigail Breslin), she gives him a piece of evidence to find the man who actually killed her roommate.  When Allison’s attorneys refuse to investigate the evidence in a case that is years old, Bill takes matters into his own hands. 

Written by Tom McCarthy (Spotlight, The Visitor) with Thomas Bidegain and Marcus Hinchey, Stillwater stars Matt Damon, Abigail Breslin, Camille Cottin, and Lilou Siavaud.  The film is also directed by McCarthy.

When you read the description of the movie, one thinks of Jason Bourne going through the French countryside kicking butt and taking names until he finds the murderer and clears his daughter’s name.  This is not that film.  Tom McCarthy creates a more pensive and realistic version of that film where Damon’s character does not have a specific set of skills but is a regular, average father who is a fish out of water but is dedicated to finding freedom for his daughter.  Along his meandering way, Bill Baker finds friendship and assistance from theater actor Virginie (Cottin) and her daughter Maya (Siauvaud).

It may have been an overstatement to say that Bill Baker is an average father.  He is actually more of a simpleton than most fathers.  It is painful to watch him stumble through France trying to find his way and save his daughter.  So much so that at one point in time in the film, Baker himself gives up on his mission and just tries to eke out a living in the country while trying to be near the daughter who wants nothing to do with him. 

Matt Damon and Camille Cottin star in “Stillwater,” directed by Tom McCarthy.

Not every effort is great and Oscar winner, Tom McCarthy, fails with this movie.  While the casting of the movie is good and the acting is as well, everything in this film’s plot feels forced, disingenuous and uninteresting.  The only relationship that holds some interest in the film is the one between Bill and Maya which everyone can clearly see as Bill’s shot at redemption for the mess he has made with his own child. Except for Maya, McCarthy has created emotionless characters that give nothing for the audience to grab onto or for whom to root.  This disconnect, combined with the deliberate pacing, makes for a movie that is a boring, action-adventure film that seems loosely based upon the story of Amanda Knox. 

Rated R for language, Stillwater is stillborn in its delivery and conception from the moment Bill arrives in France.  It is a long, tedious, and most times boring journey that seems to have no resolution, reward or redemption.  After two hours and twenty minutes, it is just an unfortunate waste of time and talent. 

Stillwater is in theaters. 

Grade:  D

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