Monday, February 05, 2024

Movie Monday: Stillwater

A few weeks ago, my husband and I were looking for a movie to watch and stumbled on Stillwater, starring Matt Damon. It was excellent, combining family drama, a mystery, and legal drama, about a father trying desperately to save his only daughter.

Bill, played by Matt Damon, is a widowed oil-rig worker living in Stillwater, Oklahoma. Between jobs and estranged from his only daughter, Bill flies to Marseilles, France, to visit her--in prison. Allison, played by Abigail Breslin, was attending college in Marseilles when her girlfriend was brutally murdered. Allison was convicted of the murder and sentenced to nine years in prison. She won't talk to Bill much at first, but he perseveres and stays there, near her. When Allison finally opens up to her father, she insists that she's innocent. Bill tries his best to plead with the lawyer to reopen her case but is unsuccessful. Allison remembers a guy named Akim hanging out with them that night, and Bill sets off on his own quest to find this mystery man, searching social media and the rough sections of Marseilles where he thinks Akim lives. Meanwhile, he has met a kind French woman named Virginie, played by Camille Cottin, and they become friends. She invites him to live in the spare room in her apartment and becomes invested in him and his daughter and his fight for her freedom. Virginie's little daughter, Maya, really likes Bill, even though she speaks no English and he no French. They teach each other, become close, and Bill becomes a part of the family, helping to care for Maya. But Bill's priority remains proving that Allison is innocent and rebuilding his relationship with her.

This movie really defied my expectations. It's a moving, powerful drama about a father's love, with the suspense and action of a mystery/thriller. In between, there are moments of humor and joy--especially in Bill's growing relationship with Virginie and Maya--and sorrow, too. Both Damon and Breslin give excellent performances, and the rest of the cast is great, too. While we see some of the darker parts of this beautiful city, the movie is an integral part of its surroundings, making use of the setting to emphasize Bill's fish-out-of-water status in France and his grim determination to stay for as long as it takes. Its characterization of Stillwater is a bit less authentic. It's depicted as a down-and-out rural area that's practically a ghost town. My husband went to Oklahoma State University in Stillwater; it's actually a thriving college town with over 20,000 students. But it made a good name for the movie! We both enjoyed this one very much.

Available on Amazon Prime and for a fee on Apple TV and other platforms.

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