How far would you go to save someone that you love? In Stillwater, Matt Damon’s character Bill Baker travels to Marseilles to try to free his daughter, who claims that she is in prison for a crime that she didn’t commit. The mystery takes a few twists and turns along the way, and might even make you think of the Amanda Knox case. Will he get the answers that he is looking for? Here is my spoiler free review of Stillwater, which is now available on Blu-Ray, DVD and Digital HD.
NOTE: Universal Pictures Home Entertainment provided me with a free copy for review. All opinions expressed are my own.
Before I get started, here is the official synopsis: “Stillwater follows Bill Baker (Damon), an American oil-rig roughneck from Oklahoma who travels to Marseilles to visit his estranged daughter (Breslin), in prison for a murder she claims she did not commit. Confronted with language barriers, cultural differences, and a complicated legal system, Bill builds a new life for himself in France as he makes it his personal mission to exonerate his daughter.”
Here’s the deal, you might not like Bill for a few reasons. You might not like his politics, or the way he goes about things, but there are also some things that might give you pause. At his core, Bill has a good heart and wants to work hard. He has a soft spot for his daughter, and little Maya who he meets in France. It feels like all he wants to do is help, even when he goes about it in completely the wrong way. The way he makes a new life for himself is admirable, but does take away from the mystery a bit. While the character building is necessary, sometimes this feels more like Bill’s story than his daughter Allison’s. You’ll feel the film drift back and forth, which can be a bit frustrating.
One of the best things about the film is how Damon portrays Bill Baker in his toughest moments. There are times where you can see that he is frustrating, seething even. Despite that, he keeps his cool and it felt very true to life. It’s like watching someone battle the person that they were with the person that they either want to be or have to be. You can make up your own mind about that last part.
While Abigail Breslin gives a solid performance, something did not feel right about Allison from the start for me. I don’t know if it was that I didn’t trust her or that she just wasn’t very likeable of a character. I won’t spoil any twists for you, so I will just leave it at that.
Camille Cottin, Maya’s mom and the woman who ends up helping Bill, might be the most likeable character of all. Without her, Bill wouldn’t have lasted a day. She is a single mother, an actress and a bit of a free spirit. Bill doesn’t even realize her influence on him, and it’s subtle, but their relationship might be one of the more under appreciated aspects of the film.
Overall, the film has it’s moments of being compelling, but does tend to drag on a bit too much. The character building was nice, but a bit overdone. You could have cut at least a half hour out of the film and gotten to the point much faster. It will break your heart at times, and frustrate you in others. You will think that this is a mystery, even a thriller at times, but it felt much more to me like a character driven drama. The amount you are invested in these characters will go a long way as to whether or not you will enjoy this film. I will say that I am, even as I write this, still on the fence as to how I ultimately feel about Stillwater. Enjoy the realism, both in the characters and the setting of Marseilles. Then draw your conclusion about the twists to come. If you’re conflicted, keep in mind, that might be a good thing.
Photo Credit: Universal Pictures Home Entertainment