Tom McCarthy cites Mediterranean noirs because the inspiration for Stillwater, however there’s little of that mystique on this uneven ‘90s throwback, regardless of the principally untapped potential of its atmospheric setting within the French port metropolis of Marseille. Matt Damon provides a stable efficiency as an unemployed Oklahoma oil rig employee with a messy previous, decided to do proper by the daughter caught in jail for a homicide she claims she didn’t commit. However that story is clunky, old school and predictable when it’s not implausible. In any case, it’s much less involving than the shot at renewal the failed household man will get with a French single mom.
The latter position, Virginie, is performed by Name My Agent! lead Camile Cottin in a quietly luminous efficiency, juggling French and English dialogue with the identical relaxed heat. As Damon’s Invoice Baker grows nearer to Virginie and her 9-year-old daughter Maya (Lilou Siauvaud, a captivating pure), this reticent man who wears his disappointment like a heavy overcoat slowly opens as much as the probabilities of a life he had thought off-limits. That thread faucets into the identical sort of sensitively noticed cross-cultural connections McCarthy explored in The Customer, which, together with The Station Agent, stays his most completed work as director — no matter that greatest image Oscar for Highlight.
The Backside Line
Does not run deep.
Sadly, the A plot retains dragging the film down. Following its out of competitors premiere in Cannes, this late July Focus launch seems to be more likely to make solely a short theatrical detour en path to streaming platforms.
Scripted by McCarthy and Marcus Hinchey with French writers Thomas Bidegain and Noé Debré, greatest recognized for his or her collaborations with Jacques Audiard, the screenplay’s earliest draft is from a decade in the past and it does certainly play like one thing that’s been gathering mud in a drawer. There are allusions to current-day red-state America within the blinkered worldview that’s a part of Invoice’s baggage, however that up to date veneer is undernourished and the story’s political tooth haven’t any chunk.
Invoice’s daughter Allison (Abigail Breslin) is 5 years right into a nine-year sentence for the homicide of Lina, the French Arab girlfriend she met whereas attending faculty in Marseille. Allison’s mom dedicated suicide for causes by no means revealed, and the declining well being of the maternal grandmother who raised her (Deanna Dunagan) means she will be able to not journey. So Invoice flies to Marseille as usually as he can, delivering provides, selecting up her laundry and praying for Allison though her affection for him appears muted. He was a screw-up earlier than going into restoration for alcohol and medicines, however we solely ever get generic hints in regards to the causes for her coolness towards him.
When Allison learns new details about Lina’s homicide, implicating a younger man named Akim from the tasks, she asks her dad to ship a letter to her lawyer Leparq (Anne Le Ny), requesting that she have the case reopened. However Leparq declines, mentioning that rumour shouldn’t be thought of proof. So whereas Invoice retains this from Allison, he makes it his mission to search out Akim and show his value to his daughter. This regardless of her having made clear in her letter to the lawyer that she considers her father incapable and untrustworthy.
The language barrier and a lack of know-how of how the totally different social strata of Marseille work make his job a tough one. However he will get assist when he strikes up a friendship with theater actress Virginie, who has a behavior of adopting causes.
Unfurling over a sluggish two hours plus, Stillwater is least convincing when McCarthy makes an attempt to construct suspense, with most of that work being finished by Mychael Danna’s rating. The late plot twists turn out to be virtually risible, as soon as Akim (Idir Azougli) enters the image.
A part of the issue is also that there’s by no means a lot purpose to spend money on Allison, regardless of the heavy burden Invoice clearly carries. Her case was massive information on the time, and in a city the place poverty and race draw sharp dividing strains, the sentiment of neither public nor press was a lot in favor of “the American lesbian.” Breslin has a number of tender moments when she will get reacquainted along with her father and his new adoptive household throughout a day launch. However principally, Allison stays distant as a personality, particularly when she blurts out heavy-handed strains like, “Life is brutal.” The truth that she may not be solely innocent in Lina’s dying ought to make her extra fascinating, not much less.
Contemplating that Bidegain was a co-writer on Audiard’s nice jail drama A Prophet, an enthralling illustration of Muslim id in a French microcosm, the race parts listed below are pretty primary. Liberal-minded Virginie bristles on the indiscriminate urge of many to place one other Arab child behind bars as they get nearer to monitoring down Akim, whereas for Invoice, that sort of kneejerk racism is so acquainted he barely notices it.
However these variations are additionally what makes the gradual transition from friendship to romance of Invoice and Virginie so disarming. He’s a spiritual man who actually wears his patriotism on his sleeve in a bald eagle tattoo. He’s additionally the proprietor of not one however two weapons, the thought of which Virginie finds incomprehensible. In a single amusing scene, whereas her good friend Nedjma (Naidra Ayadi) helps them with some Instagram detective work, she asks Invoice if he voted for Trump. He says solely that he didn’t vote due to his arrest report.
Damon finds understated humor on this uncultured man who’s nudged for the primary time in his life to see himself — and by extension Allison — because the outsiders, the best way the remainder of the world sees People. A telling second in an early scene finds him behind a van with a twister cleanup crew chattering away in Spanish, whereas he sits in absent silence. His time in Marseille reveals in refined ways in which he’s studying to see past otherness, and Damon by no means overplays that softening of Invoice’s closed-off views.
The actor’s many scenes with younger Siauvaud are fairly beautiful, avoiding cutesiness whereas gently exhibiting Invoice’s pleasure in attending to expertise the sort of bonding he skipped together with his personal daughter. His awkward feedback when Virginie invitations him to observe a rehearsal of a play she’s doing present how fully he’s exterior his consolation zone. (“What am I gonna do in a fuckin’ theater?” he asks Allison earlier, with blunt self-awareness.) However the melting of the gap between them is so properly performed by Damon and Cottin you retain wishing this was their story. A beautiful interlude wherein they dance to Sammi Smith’s “Assist Me Make It By means of the Evening,” with Maya demanding to get in on the act, additional cements that want.
Invoice could have stayed on in Marseille to stay in Allison’s life even after her rejection. Nevertheless it’s the totally different model of himself he discovers there that gives the usually clumsy Stillwater with some grace and coronary heart.