November 1, 2021
Box Office $14.47 million;
$29.98 DVD, $34.98 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘R’ for language.
Stars Matt Damon, Abigail Breslin, Camile Cottin, Lilou Siauvaud, Deanna Dunagan.
Matt Damon plays somewhat against type in this tale of a father trying to free his daughter from incarceration overseas.
The film was reportedly loosely based on the story of Amanda Knox, who is alluded to but not mentioned by name in the film’s bonus materials. Stillwater was directed by and co-written by Tom McCarthy, who is no stranger to investigative plotlines after having won Oscars for Spotlight.
Rather that being set in Italy as Knox’s case was, the film centers its events on Marseille, France. Damon plays Bill Baker, a rough-around-the-edges Oklahoma oil worker whose daughter, Allison (Abigail Breslin) was convicted of murdering her roommate while studying abroad. When Bill goes to visit her in prison, she asks him to pass along a note to her lawyer, who has basically abandoned any attempts to overturn the conviction. The letter speaks of rumors of another man claiming to be the killer, prompting Bill to search for new evidence.
This leads to him staying in France for several months pursuing dead-end leads, getting Allison’s hopes up as he lies to her about the chances of reopening the case.
Though its performances are compelling enough to sustain interest, the film’s exhausting 139-minute running time leads it to meander a bit, particularly during the second act as Bill takes up with a local woman named Virginie (Camile Cottin) and her daughter, and the film shifts its focus to show him becoming enmeshed in their lives as well.
The Blu-ray includes three short featurettes that offer a few good insights into the making of the film. The five-minute “An Alchemy of Viewpoints” covers the production in general; the three-minute “An American in Marseilles: The Locations of Stillwater” delves into why McCarthy chose to set the movie in France; and “With Curiosity & Compassion: Director Tom McCarthy” offers some interviews with McCarthy’s collaborators about why they enjoyed working with him.