“A father travels from Oklahoma to France to help his estranged daughter, who is in prison for a murder she claims she didn’t commit.”

Director: Tom McCarthy
Writers: Thomas Bidegain, Marcus Hinchey, Tom McCarthy
Staring: Matt Damon, Camille Cottin, Abigail Breslin
Release Date: July 30,2021

Bill (Matt Damon) is a father living the blue collar life in Stillwater, OK. His wife is no longer around, and his daughter Allison (Abigail Breslin) is in prison in France for a murder that she claims she did not commit. Yea, things aren’t going great for Bill.

A regular trip to visit her in prison turns into an extended stay when Allison hands Bill a piece of new information that may help her get out of prison. Bill brings it too the law office, but they say it is not enough to go on, so Bill goes on a mission himself. Thankfully, it is not a Bryan Mills type of situation in Taken (2008). Bill takes his lumps trying to sort all of this mess out on his own and goes the long way round to try and free his daughter. There is love gained, lost lost, morals compromised and an unsettling conclusion.

The Stillwater story line is LOOSLY based off of the Amanda Knox story, per direct comments from Tom McCarthy to Vanity Fair in June of 2021. You can connect the loose ties…but they are able to undone with the slightest of adjustments. Supposedly, Knox was not happy with any connections at all; she posted on Twitter, “Does my name belong to me? My face? What about my life? My story? Why does my name refer to events I had no hand in? I return to these questions because others continue to profit off my name, face, and story without my consent. Most recently, the film Stillwater.”

Watch Stillwater and make the decision for yourself, that is all I can say.

When I opened up Stillwater, I was worried that Bill was going to be a super Republican. I was worried it would feed into a stereotype. For the sake of the viewers and the sake of the movie itself, it is a credit to Matt Damon for portraying this character with more depth than anticipated. Yes, he is a red-stater, and that is perfectly fine, but you don’t identify with him for that. You identify with Bill because he is struggling to acclimate to a new environment and he is fighting in good faith for his daughter.

The freshest face in Stillwater is Camille Cottin, who plays Virginie. Looking at her IMDB, it is now clicked with me that she is indeed in Killing Eve, so that is good vibes. Her filmography is mainly French films, but with Stillwater and The House Of Gucci (2021), she is starting to get a little more limelight.

The character of Virginie has a few things in common with Bill. A spouse that is out of the picture and a daughter that needs help. Her and Bill have things in common and the eventual romance that is shared between them is not rushed. Bill doesn’t know how to move fast and doesn’t know how to act when knowing that Virginie is into him, and that is hilarious for me.

The relationship that Bill has with Virginie and her daughter Maya (Lillou Siauvaud) is natural, and it serves a purpose for Bill’s character. He is playing the part of a dad again, which is a constant reminder for him that Allison still needs her dad, even if she is in prison and more grown up. It is an emotional anchor for him. There is a point in Stillwater when Bill takes a turn and he brings Maya with him, cementing the road he is ready to take. Does he know it may lead to a rather detrimental destination, but it is a risk he has to take.

I wish that we got more from Abigail Breslin as Allison. They day that she is allowed leave the prison, we actually get to see Breslin act and interact with more than just her dad in a prison setting. Her character is shrouded in shadows because we don’t know her whole truth, and the prison acts as another cloud of her as a person. We get that she is desperate, but we don’t know about the relationships she had prior to be incarcerated. The lack of context means we are guessing a lot about her character, which is part of the story but also part of the struggle.

We are going to touch on something here that most likely speaks directly to me, myself and I. This is Stanko’s Stance, so why not.

I love the way that France is portrayed in Stillwater. This is the type of France I could picture living in. It is not over romanticized. It is not done up pretty. This is real France and real Marseilles. I loved the French language being inserted in fluently, and I really empathize with Bill trying to learn all of the vocabulary.

After watching Stillwater, I am still excited about how much more I enjoyed this movie than I expected. It handles the story in an interesting and nuanced way rather than making Bill Seem like a knight in shining armor. Camille Cottin is a fresh new face I had never seen before, and she left a wonderful first impression. Also, if you insert me into a french atmosphere, I am always going to like that.

Stillwater is a nice sit down, cuddle type of movie if you aren’t looking for a romantic comedy. It’ll hold your attention and in the end you’ll be thinking about it after the fact.

STANKO RATING: B (3.5/5 Stars)

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