Time Out says
Matt Damon fights for his daughter’s future in this often compelling family drama
Matt Damon is back in Europe causing a ruckus – this time as an American dad trying to exonerate his estranged daughter for a murder she claims she didn’t commit.
Stillwater certainly has the grounded, naturalistic look of a Jason Bourne movie but it is by no means an action-packed thriller. Instead, writer-director Tom McCarthy injects the meditative quality that elevated his journo procedural Spotlight into this sometimes thrilling family drama.
Out-of-work Oklahoma labourer Bill (Damon) doesn’t speak French, have much money or a particular set of skills to investigate a tip that could see his girl Allison (Abigail Breslin) freed from a Marseilles prison. He does, however, have a lot of fatherly guilt to spur him on and support from new acquaintances: single mother and actress Virginine (Camille Cottin) and her young daughter Maya (Lilou Siauvaud).
Bill’s pursuit for answers is intriguing as cultural differences present themselves in sometimes amusing, sometimes threatening ways: one minute he’s being asked if he voted for Trump; the next, he’s getting his ass handed to him by some youths. Damon’s chemistry with both Cottin and Siauvaud is charming to watch while his ‘stoical, simple man seeking atonement’ storyline is rather moving. You can’t help but root for the philistine; even at his most aggressive, there’s a tenderness at play.
But this is a film of two halves: it starts off with some interesting ideas about family, duty and hardship, but it has less to say as the plot chugs into increasingly contrived territory. There’s an uncomfortable racial undercurrent that never gets meaningfully addressed and a conclusion that doesn’t grapple hard enough with the events that led to it. Stillwater’s leap is admirable – it’s just a shame about the landing.
In US theaters Fri Jul 30. In UK cinemas Aug 6.
Cast and crew