Sunday 4 June 2023

Movie Review: Stillwater (2021)

Genre: Crime Mystery Drama
Director: Tom McCarthy
Starring: Matt Damon, Camille Cottin, Abigail Breslin
Running Time: 140 minutes

Synopsis: Oil rig worker Bill Baker (Matt Damon), from the small Oklahoma town of Stillwater, travels to Marseille, France, to visit his imprisoned daughter Allison (Abigail Breslin). She is serving a nine year sentence for stabbing to death her college lover Lina, a crime she denies committing. Allison is aware of new hearsay evidence that could exonerate her, but Bill finds the justice system uninterested in reopening the case. He starts his own amateur sleuthing, helped by his hotel room neighbour Virginie (Camille Cottin) and her young daughter Maya.

What Works Well: Director and co-writer Tom McCarthy combines a patient amateur investigation with a character-based drama luxuriating in a stranger abroad premise, spiked with multiple cross-cutting culture clash and stereotype undercurrents. Matt Damon slows down and disappears into the role of a blue collar dimwit aware of his limitations but seeking redemption for past mistakes. The unlikely relationships Bill develops with Virginie and her daughter Maya emit a warm glow within the scrappy multi-ethnic Marseille surroundings.

What Does Not Work As Well: The 140 minute length is inexcusable, and combined with uneven pacing results in a flabby mid-section. The final act is refreshingly untidy, but also rushed. For better or worse, the entire plot works as an unsubtle parable for the follies of American foreign interventionism.

Conclusion: Stillwater runs deep, and long.

All Ace Black Movie Blog reviews are here.

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