Starring: Matt Damon, Abigail Breslin, Camille Cottin
Director: Tom McCarthy
Running Time: 140 mins
Stillwater is an American film about a father from Oklahoma who travels to Marseille to visit his daughter, currently serving a prison sentence for a crime he believes she is innocent of. However, as new evidence in the case comes to light, he takes reopening the investigation into his own hands.
This film really surprised me. More than just a movie about proving injustice, Stillwater is a deeply captivating and beautifully tender drama about a kind-hearted all-American hero as he clashes with the wider world, yet comes to embrace it.
There are lots of different ways to look at Stillwater, but it’s a film that goes a lot further than you might expect at first. This isn’t a typical crime thriller as it seems to be billed, evolving over the course of its near-two and a half hour runtime into something really quite special.
That’s because Stillwater builds upon the family drama created by the father’s efforts to get his daughter out of jail with an unexpected and eye-opening dive into a completely different world, as his time in Marseille begins to open him up to a different way of life.
The movie strikes a good balance between playing up the best qualities of a humble, American everyman, while equally showcasing some of his defects as he clashes with an arguably more open French culture. As a result, Stillwater is able to give a passionate portrayal of cultural exchange without ever being particularly one-sided or patronising.
From start to finish, Matt Damon is wonderful in the lead role, with his dedication to rescuing his daughter an immediate hook for you to form a connection with him, and then his exploration of life in France a chance for you to live through his eyes too.
Alongside Damon is Camille Cottin, who gives a beautiful performance as a local woman who Damon befriends in his investigations, and over the course of the film really adds to the heart of the movie, which is ultimately what makes it such a captivating watch.
The main focus of the movie might at first seem like resolving a case of mishandled justice, but especially after its first act, Stillwater changes almost completely into a very mellow, touching drama that almost drops the crime element of its story completely.
While that makes a comeback in the final act, I found myself entirely enamoured with this film in its middle portion, as it’s not afraid to slow itself down and take a moment to smell the flowers in the midst of what could have been quite an intense, gritty thriller.
As a result, Stillwater really succeeds in offering something unique for its genre, with beautiful and tender emotion at the centre of focus instead of fast-paced mystery. With excellent characterisation and even better performances, the film is a convincing and captivating watch throughout, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.8 overall.