Stillwater: Another Review. by Nick Boyd.
“Stillwater,” which stars Matt Damon as Bill Baker, is a story of a father who is desperately trying to free his daughter Allison (Abigail Breslin), who was convicted of murdering her girlfriend in the coastal city of Marseilles, France while studying abroad. (The story is very loosely based on the Amanda Knox case, but is a work of fiction all its own.) Bill is an oil worker in Stillwater, Oklahoma, hence the film’s title. When the film begins, Bill is off to visit his daughter in a French prison, where she is less than halfway through serving a nine-year sentence.
She asks Bill to deliver a letter to her attorney, desperate to have the authorities reopen her high-profile case. With little faith in the French judicial system, Bill begins his own investigation to ensure his daughter does not lose hope and to possibly repair their frayed relationship. At the hotel where he is staying, Bill befriends a young girl and her mother Virginie (played by an engaging Camille Cottin). Bill begins to rely on Virginie for her help in translating, serving as a resource in his daughter’s legal case, and in understanding the nuances of the city he barely knows.
The more Bill and Virginie get to know each other, the more an attraction develops between the two of them, both of whom are single parents. Bill becomes a surrogate father to Virginie’s daughter, who is adorably endearing. Despite the predicament that he is in, as Bill becomes more immersed in French culture, especially in the presence of Virginie and her daughter, the more he is drawn to it. This quiet dynamic between Bill, Virginie, and her daughter is by far the best part of the movie.
As more of the details are revealed in Allison’s case, it becomes clear that someone named Akim may hold the key to unraveling things. As a result, Bill makes it his mission to do whatever he can to locate Akim and get what he needs from him. This results in some implausibilities in the last third of the movie.
A moving part of the film is when Allison is able to get a day’s release from prison and enjoy a day of freedom. Father and daughter spend time together in the still waters of France’s oldest city, and Bill is able to introduce Allison to Virginie and her daughter.
Damon is in top form underneath his tough redneck exterior showing vulnerability in a powerful thriller with a lot on its mind. The devotion Damon has to his daughter is palpably felt, as is the relationship he forms with a French woman and her daughter. The movie really keeps you guessing as to the true motives of the characters with its complex plot.
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