Directed by Tom McCarthy (Spotlight), and starring Matt Damon, Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine) and Camille Cottin (Call My Agent!) Stillwater tells the story of an unemployed steelworker who travels to Marseille in France to visit his daughter Allison who is in prison for a murder she didn’t commit. On arrival in Marseille Bill Baker (Matt Damon) befriends a French woman Virginie (Camille Cottin) who he asks to work as a translator. He decides to stay in France moving in with Virginie and her young daughter as he continues to fight for Allison’s release and find the real murderer.

If you are familiar with the Amanda Knox case, where an American student studying in Italy was charged with the murder of a fellow student and spent some years in an Italian prison before being exonerated, you will see parallels to the film Stillwater. I believe the Amanda Knox case is the inspiration for Stillwater.

Matt Damon portrays a very stereotypical Trump supporting, gun toting redneck who’s a complete fish out of water in France. The film plays on this clash of cultures and the characters racist views in a very stereotypical fashion which I found very jarring. I found the relationship that develops between Bill and Virginie unconvincing. I also found it hard to believe that Virginie would let a man like Bill into her home and be around her daughter knowing he had these racist tendencies, particularly when Virginie makes it clear after an encounter with a local how anti-racist she is. I did however love the scenes between Bill and Maya, Virginie’s daughter, which were very sweet and endearing.

I’m a huge fan of Camille Cottin after devouring all seasons of Call My Agent! on Netflix. It’s so great to see her in a Hollywood film opposite Matt Damon. And also, it was lovely to see Abigail Breslin of Little Miss Sunshine fame in an adult role and to see that she continues to be a very good actress who can easily hit all the emotional beats.

The problem with Stillwater lies with the meandering plot and mixing of genres. It feels like three films stuck together, a fight for justice film, a romantic drama and a thriller. Some plot elements are explored then completely abandoned leaving some massive plot holes and an unsatisfactory conclusion which I found very frustrating.

Stillwater premiered recently out of competition in Cannes and got a 5-minute standing ovation which I was surprised at as the Cannes audience are known to be harsh critics. Perhaps because it is a French Hollywood film shot on their home turf that the audience overlooked some of the elements that lacked in it for me.

With the overlong running time, meandering plot and confusing mixture of genres Stillwater isn’t a film for everyone’s tastes but with Matt Damon at the helm and some interesting twists and turns to hold your attention it is a film worth checking out, but maybe wait for it to appear on one of the streaming platforms rather than rushing to the cinema to see it.

  • Released in Irish Cinemas on August 6th
  • Directed by: Tom McCarthy
  • Starring: Matt Damon, Camille Cottin, Abigail Breslin
  • Running Time: 138mins
  • Cert: TBC

Review by Claire Millane a Dublin based actor, writer, and one of the presenters of No Budget.