In my lifetime, there have been a few trips I have taken to other countries. It was wonderful to see other cultures and lifestyles, but one thing I always kept in mind was the fact that I was playing by another government’s rules. Unfortunately, some people forget that fact, and I cannot imagine how scared they must be when they are subject to their legal system truly (I know it scares me). With “Spotlight” writer Tom McCarthy’s “Stillwater,” this fear comes to life for one man and his daughter.
Matt Damon plays Bill Baker, an oil well driller from Oklahoma who has to travel to Marseille, France multiple times to visit his daughter Allison (Abigail Breslin). Allison is serving the 5th year of a 9 year prison sentence for the murder of her lover and continues to profess her innocence. On one such visit, there is a new lead which might prove her innocence, and in pursuing it he meets Virginie (Camille Cottin) and her daughter, Maya (Lilou Siauvaud). As they get to know each other, Virginie starts to help bill on the quest to find the new evidence while the bond between them grows deeper.
Most of the film takes place in France, and it really looked good and was used to help keep the feel of the story fresh. Unfortunately, “Stillwater” is way too long at 140 minutes; I felt every minute of it. The script itself is OK, but it has a very slow pace, and the third act seemed to just rush its way to the ending. I would have preferred they took some content out of the first two acts and focused more on the resolution of the story to balance it better.
From an acting standpoint, I have mixed feelings. Matt Damon has given so many great performances, but him trying to be an Oklahoma roughneck did not work. His attempt at an Oklahoma accent was not enough to sell me on him as the character, but onn the other hand, my shout goes to Siauvaud, who only has this film on her IMdB profile. She brings a great amount of spirit and character that even gave some light to the more serious moments of the film. Without her, I would rate this on the other side of the fence, but she makes it so I can recommend “Stillwater” to be viewed on cable in the middle of the night.