STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

'Stillwater' stars Matt Damon as a dad crusading to free his daughter

'Stillwater' stars Matt Damon as a dad crusading to free his daughter

Posted: Jul 29, 2021 7:41 PM
Updated: Jul 29, 2021 7:41 PM

Anchored by an impressive performance from Matt Damon, "Stillwater" confounds expectations in mostly frustrating ways. Director/co-writer Tom McCarthy (the Oscar-winning "Spotlight") has set up a movie about a father determined to help free his daughter, but unlike the usual can-do Americans in this sort of tale, he's clearly in way over his head.

The story owes an obvious debt to the Amanda Knox case, with Abigail Breslin playing Allison, an American student convicted in the murder of her roommate and lover. Her father, Bill Baker (Damon), visits from Oklahoma to the jail where she's currently imprisoned in Marseille, pursuing a line of inquiry that might lead to her release.

Still, far from the Hitchcockian everyman who invariably triumphed in such situations (think Jimmy Stewart in "The Man Who Knew Too Much"), Bill has his own troubled background, including substance abuse, and isn't much of a detective.

Unable to speak the local language, he eventually strikes up a relationship with an actress, Virginie (Camille Cottin, recently seen in "Call My Agent"), forging unlikely ties to her and her young daughter (Lilou Siauvaud), a surrogate for the parental bond that he largely squandered.

The movie thus operates on parallel tracks, with Bill establishing something of a life in Marseille while endeavoring to find a way to exonerate Allison, despite being urged to let it go.

"The last thing you want to give daughter is false hope," her lawyer tells him, but driven by forces within him -- among them a desire to make amends -- Bill can't seem to relinquish the fight.

McCarthy originally drew inspiration from the Knox story, and an early draft of the script sat dormant for several years. In the interim, the world -- and America's place in it -- has evolved, adding another element to Bill's efforts.

Because McCarthy and his collaborators deliver much more of an indie film than a studio product, "Stillwater" (the name of an Oklahoma town) takes unanticipated detours, which proves a mixed blessing. While the film keeps the audience off balance about what really happened, and what will, it drags on nearly two hours and 20 minutes, fostering impatience about reaching the end, and less satisfaction when it finally does.

Give McCarthy credit for building a movie around a flawed protagonist and his search for redemption, and Damon for wholeheartedly sinking himself into a role that avoids the usual heroic cliches.

Ultimately, though, "Stillwater" runs long but doesn't run particularly deep -- or at least, not quite deep enough.

"Stillwater" premieres July 30 in US theaters. It's rated R.

The-CNN-Wire
™ & © 2021 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

New York Coronavirus Cases

County data is updated nightly.

Cases: 2408593

Reported Deaths: 55188
CountyCasesDeaths
Kings32093610760
Queens30738910177
Suffolk2296953526
Nassau2080873261
Bronx2029976705
New York1628104607
Westchester1413352329
Erie1000941888
Richmond862711908
Monroe789431158
Orange54975887
Rockland51151769
Onondaga46663723
Dutchess34029490
Albany28778370
Oneida26228554
Niagara22399386
Broome22200387
Saratoga18656191
Ulster16501273
Schenectady15473217
Rensselaer13522155
Putnam1194196
Chautauqua11235158
Oswego9920103
Chemung9354146
St. Lawrence9114119
Steuben8697160
Ontario8669100
Cayuga8034104
Sullivan789782
Jefferson764071
Wayne712878
Cattaraugus684999
Genesee6195131
Herkimer6102118
Tompkins607159
Clinton586634
Madison551598
Fulton545298
Livingston528967
Montgomery5213134
Cortland490871
Warren478478
Columbia4727109
Tioga450567
Chenango425986
Otsego422151
Allegany409193
Washington405865
Greene402483
Wyoming396454
Orleans375684
Franklin367016
Lewis326536
Delaware314241
Seneca251459
Schoharie210920
Essex200029
Yates142426
Schuyler132116
Hamilton4093
Unassigned12929
Out of NY0296
Utica
Cloudy
65° wxIcon
Hi: 71° Lo: 50°
Feels Like: 65°
Oneonta
Cloudy
65° wxIcon
Hi: 71° Lo: 50°
Feels Like: 65°
Herkimer
Cloudy
64° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 49°
Feels Like: 64°
Old Forge
Cloudy
65° wxIcon
Hi: 62° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 65°
WKTV Radar
WKTV Temperatures
WKTV Severe Weather
NEW Game Day Deals each week
Follow the 2021 Go the Distance Team - sponsored by Gilroy Kernan & Gilroy
Cool To Be Kind 2021
Chapter Photofacial Therapy Giveaway
Looking for work or looking to hire? Check out the WKTV Job Fair!
Saluting Those Who Are Proud 2 Serve