Starring Matt Damon, Stillwater is either a slow-burning thriller or a pacier drama, depending on your taste in movies. It does take a bit to get going but once it does things start looking better and better. I say this only because the first third of the movie is very ambiguous. It’s like they had to stop themselves before it took a large chunk of already longish two-hour running time. This compromise felt a bit jerky but what can you do. I think they should have gone all-in and fuck it if the movie lasts three hours. It would have tied in nicely with the rest of it because it reminded me of so many French movies that start this way. You really don’t know where the story is going but you’re willing to follow it because it feels realistic and immersive.
As you probably know, Rabbit Reviews loves working man’s stories and Stillwater offers exactly that. There’s the smart way of doing things and then there’s the Bill Baker’s way. It may be longer and more difficult but it’s an honest and passionate one. We follow his journey in the aftermath of a terrible tragedy that happened to his daughter in France. And I have to say that this change of scenery elevated this movie from the usual indie drama crowd. It made it somehow exotic and more appealing, after all, most of the story takes place in beautiful Marseille. The story unfolds at an even pace and has this casual vibe about it despite all the difficulties. It’s very loosely based on Amanda Knox’s story, something that caused quite a controversy.
Meet Bill Baker, a hard-working man who had a lot of ups and downs in his life. He’s an oil worker but the jobs are scarce nowadays and Bill needs the money to visit his daughter Allison in France. Somehow he manages to get there but now he must gather all his wits to help Allison because she’s in a lot of trouble.
I know that the summary of Stillwater sounds kind of vague, but I don’t want to spoil anything for ya. As is expected both Matt and young Abigail Breslin gave excellent and captivating performances. Camille Cottin as Virginie was also great, showing that true French charm and skills. This is a character-driven drama focused on Bill, a man who’s not that in touch with the modern world. And while at times you could feel a bit of boomer nostalgia, it’s not that pervasive to spoil the viewing pleasure. I also appreciate this honest approach as it feels much more authentic than the usual melodramatic drivel. It remains firmly rooted in the mainstream so don’t expect another The Secret in Their Eyes. A movie you might wanna check out after this one.
Director: Tom McCarthy
Writers: Tom McCarthy, Marcus Hinchey, Thomas Bidegain
Cast: Matt Damon, Camille Cottin, Abigail Breslin, Lilou Siauvaud, Deanna Dunagan, Idir Azougli, Anne Le Ny
Fun Facts: Tom McCarthy explained in an interview how he and Matt Damon immersed themselves in the culture of Oklahoma oil “roughnecks” for the film – “Matt and I started going to Oklahoma early on to get a taste of the place and the people and spending time with roughnecks, in particular. They really opened up their lives to us, and their worlds and their families. They were incredibly instrumental in helping us shape the story.”