Stillwater, Beneath the weathered baseball cap and bushy goatee, the parade of plaid shirts, and the well-mannered replies of “Certain, ma’am,” there’s an entire lot further to Bill Baker. Sure, he listens to the old-school nation in his pickup truck whereas driving between handbook labor gigs, and he not at all fails to want sooner than a meal, even when it’s tater tots and a cherry limeade from Sonic. It seems utterly pure to him to take care of a number of weapons in his run-down Oklahoma home, and he not at all misses a risk to have a look at his favorite college soccer workforce.
Nevertheless, there’s one factor simmering inside this assortment of red-state stereotypes, and “Stillwater” is at its most interesting when it explores these complexities and contradictions. Beefed-up and sad-eyed, Matt Damon brings good subtlety and pathos to the place, significantly when he cracks his stoic character open ever so gently and permits warmth, vulnerability, and even hope to shine by the use of on his freeway to redemption. Nevertheless, Bill’s story of hard-earned second possibilities is one amongst many tales director Tom McCarthy is telling in “Stillwater,” and whereas it’s basically essentially the most compelling, it moreover will get swallowed up nearly completely by way of the film’s insane third act.
The script, which McCarthy co-wrote with Thomas Bidegain, Marcus Hinchey, and Noe Debre, loosely takes its inspiration from the case of Amanda Knox, the American college pupil convicted in 2007 of killing her roommate whereas discovering out abroad in Italy. Eight years later, Knox was acquitted. “Stillwater” strikes the movement to the French port metropolis of Marseilles and introduces us to Bill’s daughter, Allison (Abigail Breslin), after she’s already served 5 years of a nine-year jail sentence for the murder of her lover, a youthful Muslim lady.
Allison insists she’s innocent; Bill resolutely believes her. And so “Stillwater” will be the story of a father and daughter attempting to repair their strained relationship as he makes frequent visits to speak and do her laundry and he or she pretends to care as he prattles on about Oklahoma State soccer. (The college campus is in—that’s correct—Stillwater, Bill, and Allison’s hometown. Nevertheless, as you’ve almost definitely guessed by now, the title refers to our hero’s demeanor, as correctly.) “Life is brutal,” each one among them says at one stage, and one among many further intriguing elements of “Stillwater” is the notion that being a screw-up is hereditary, which pushes in direction of its feel-good, Hollywood-ending urges.
Nevertheless, wait, there’s further—loads further. On account of the primary driving narrative proper right here is the probability that Allison can present her innocence primarily based totally on jailhouse rumor about an elusive, youthful Arab man. Proper right here, “Stillwater” turns right into a procedural reminiscent of McCarthy’s Oscar best-picture winner “Highlight,” as Bill knocks on doorways and follows one lead after one other, chatting with people who each help him or don’t in his efforts to exonerate his sole child. In this vein, it’s moreover regarding the racial tensions and socioeconomic disparities that exist in every France and America, and the blindly assured swagger with which some Individuals carry themselves overseas—even someone like Bill who’s, to borrow from the Tim McGraw tune, humble and kind.
And for an unlimited chunk of its midsection, it’s a number of middle-aged males forming a sudden friendship—after which a makeshift family—with a single mom and her little girl. Virginie (a vibrant and charismatic Camille Cottin) and her daughter, Maya (a lovable and steely Lilou Siauvaud), give the widowed Bill a shot at righting the wrongs of his earlier. Virginie and Bill initially be part of when she affords to help him in his investigation by making calls, translating, and typically serving as his info by the use of a historic metropolis he’s barely gotten to know. The connection makes zero sense on paper—she’s a bohemian actress, he’s an oil-rig worker—nevertheless, the small kindnesses they current each other allows them to forge a bond, and allow Bill to reveal further about himself and his tortured historic previous, piece by piece. It sounds cheesy, nevertheless surprisingly, it actually works.
That’s far and away from the strongest part of “Stillwater,” and if almost all of this film had focused on this understated dynamic and the quiet hope of upper days to return again, it may need been larger than satisfying. The performances listed under are stunning, and Damon enjoys distinctly sweet connections with every Cottin and Siauvaud. Nevertheless, then it takes a significant flip into darker territory in direction of the tip, with twists predicated on essential coincidences and reckless choices. “Stillwater” moreover turns right into a far a lot much less attention-grabbing film as a result of it slogs by the use of its overlong working time. Whereas it’s fascinating to consider Bill’s self-destructive streak rearing its head as quickly as soon as extra, even after it seems he’s lastly found some peace, the way in which wherein it performs out is so wild and implausible, it feels choose it was ripped from a totally completely totally different movie and grafted on proper right here. Inside this eventful stretch, there’s moreover a suicide strive that’s tossed in nearly as a baffling afterthought as a result of it’s not at all talked about as soon as extra.
Lastly, the cacophony of all these plots strains to converge and the load of the messaging being conveyed is a form of an extreme quantity of to bear. Particulars get spelled out and characters make clear their motivations when sustaining a complete charisma would have been much more sensible. Whether or not or not or not Allison is accountable isn’t the aim; having an enjoyable with a second of stillness and solitude inside the afternoon sunshine is, even when it’s fleeting.