Despite Damon’s excellent performance, his clear genuine investment and passion for the material, as well as a smattering of likeable and engaging family-centric moments. Stillwater is a largely plodding, unfocused and overlong affair, that falls into several genre clichés and unfortunately never fully delivers satisfyingly on its crime investigation subplot.
Written by Jack Ransom
Receiving a positive buzz around the festival circuit, and a 5 minute standing ovation at Cannes. Stillwater sees a father (Matt Damon) travel from Oklahoma to France to help his estranged daughter (Abigail Breslin), who is in prison for a murder she claims she didn't commit.
Despite Damon’s excellent performance, his clear genuine investment and passion for the material, as well as a smattering of likeable and engaging family-centric moments. This is a largely plodding, unfocused and overlong affair, that falls into several genre clichés and unfortunately never fully delivers satisfyingly on its crime investigation subplot.
Stillwater start’s off strongly. Establishing Bill’s persona and lifestyle quickly and efficiently, so that the ‘fish out of water’ journey and cultural contrasts to Marseille is even more apparent. After meeting his daughter and the judge’s refusal to open her case, Bill takes matters into his own hands. Whilst fairly engaging, it is presented in a fairly standard repetitive way, which I get for the grounded nature of the material, however it lacks any tangible tension.
However this abruptly hits a halt, and a title card appears stating ‘4 months later’. From here the film becomes a family centric drama and gradually drags itself to the finale. There are moments of charm and optimism scattered throughout and Bill’s gradual character arc does feel genuine. However the focus on his daughter is pushed to the wayside for far too long and one particularly shocking moment towards the final third is resolved and brushed over far too quickly.
Damon gives a suitably gruff and transformative performance. His deadpan and blunt delivery and brawn physicality give Bill a strong presence, as well as delivering in the subtle emotional moments. Abigail Breslin is almost overacting at times and a few of the scenes involving her and Damon can fall into melodramatic territory. Though that being said she does nail the bitter resentment beats against her father. Camille Cottin and Lilou Siauvard are both likeable as the mother and daughter that Bill befriends.
Stillwater has the bones of a strong and raw crime inflicted family drama and is led by a great performance from Damon. However the meandering pacing, overstretched runtime and predictable genre clichés let it down and render it an average affair.