Image by Jessica Forde/Courtesy of Focus Features

Film Review: Stillwater

11:00 August 09, 2021
By: Fritz Esker

Spotlight director Tom McCarthy's new film Stillwater is a good option for people who wish Hollywood told more character-based, original stories.

When the film begins, Bill (Matt Damon) is an Oklahoma roughneck whose daughter, Allison (Abigail Breslin), is in the middle of serving a prison sentence for murder in Marseilles, France, for killing her girlfriend while she was studying abroad. While in France for a visit, a lead about a potential suspect pops up. It may be a wild goose chase, but Bill tenaciously pursues it. Bill's search for the suspect is complicated by the fact that he can't speak the language and is ignorant of the cultural landscape. Along the way, he becomes close to a French single mother (Camille Cottin) and her young daughter (Lilou Siauvaud).

Bill's also an ex-con with judgment issues (Allison more than once accurately calls him a f**k-up). In many ways, his relentless quest to save his daughter seems like his effort at earning redemption for failing her as a father when she was growing up. During the search, he becomes more of a father to Siauvaud's character than he ever was to his own daughter.

At 139 minutes, Stillwater runs a little long, but it generally holds your attention and Damon does strong work in the lead. While the mystery's resolution isn't shocking, it does make sense and the conclusion has an appropriately melancholy/bittersweet feel without being too much of a downer.

If you're the type of moviegoer who complains that Hollywood doesn't make enough movies for adults these days, you should see Stillwater in theaters.

*** stars (out of four)

Sign Up!