This review is brought to you by Kathy Kaiser
STILLWATER – Rated R – 2 hrs. 20 mins.
DIRECTOR: Tom McCarthy
WRITERS: Tom McCarthy, Marcus Hinchey, Thomas Bidegain
STARRING Matt Damon, Abigail Breslin, Camille Cottin, Lilou Siauvaud and Deanna Dunagan
STILLWATER takes us into the life of Oklahoma construction worker Bill (Matt Damon), who finds himself venturing to France to see his incarcerated daughter Allison (Abigail Breslin), serving a sentence for killing her roommate. Finding himself in a new country, and knowing close to no French, Bill meets a sweet girl next door named Maya (Lilou Siauvaud), who manages to bring his rough and tumble persona quickly around, as they begin to hang together on a regular basis, much to initial dismay of Maya’s mother, the beautiful actress Virginie (Camille Cottin). Now, as Bill, Maya and Virginie try to find a sense of normal in their lives, Allison needs Bill to share the facts about her innocence with her Attorney, as she insists upon her innocence. But, seeing an opportunity to help his daughter, Bill decides it might be the perfect time to step up and be the father he hasn’t always been, before it’s too late.
Now, as Bill seeks to find the person responsible for Allison’s roommates’ death, it seems that the contentious relationship between daughter and father is once again heating up, as Allison’s wish is for her Attorney’s help isn’t arriving, so Bill decides to take matters into his own hands…putting his own life, and the lives of those around him, in rather unchartered territory…
And if this storyline seems eerily familiar to the Amanda Know story, that’s approximately where it began, but Director/Writer Tom McCarthy and Matt Damon insist that STILLWATER is not based entirely on Amanda’s life, although there are similarities, it’s a film mastered in fiction, derived from all the writers on this film. Damon is once again fabulous, as the father wanting nothing more than to help his daughter get free from the hell is living in. The chemistry that evolves between him, and his co-stars, including Abigail Breslin, Camille Cottin, and Lilou Siauvaud is palatable throughout this film, making for a convincing storyline to play out, frame after frame. But, as STILLWATER evolves, I found myself becoming less and less engaged in the story at hand, and more and more hoping that the ending had to be less depressing that the film was as a whole, but sadly, this too, would not be the case. STILLWATER ends up being so depressing, that I began to question the response it received at Cannes this year and can only conclude that Damon’s performance as a whole, was the entire reason for the standing ovation the film received. Along with Damon’s performance being exceptional, and possible worthy of a nod come awards season, youngster Lilou Siauvaud was exceptional too, bringing a shimmering glimmer of hope, to a story that was slow, and emotionally exhausting at times as well. I was saddened that after the high expectations I had for this film, that it didn’t quite meet up with any of them. Or maybe I put too much emphasis on how much I loved Director Tom McCarthy’s 2015 film SPOTLIGHT, which might have ended up skewing my view of this film. But, regardless of what made me feel the way I did while watching it, know that it just didn’t make the cut, in being one of this year’s finest thus far, thus leading me to give STILLWATER a rating that’s a little subpar.