Piece by piece this story unfolds. It is one filled with emotion. A father’s love for his daughter. Not willing to give up no matter the odds. A film like this, one with little to no action, really relies on story and cast. The cast, to a person, is excellent. Good to see Matt Damon taking on this type of grown-up role. The actors/actresses are aided in their endeavour by a solid story and a director, Tom McCarthy (Spotlight, The Station Agent), who knows the story he wants to tell, has conveyed that to the cast and stays out of their way.
A tale of redemption by a father and never giving up, Stillwater sees a widowed man (played by Matt Damon), who is down on his luck and unemployed, from Oklahoma travelling to France in an attempt to get his only daughter (Abigail Breslin) out of jail.
Allison has been convicted of murdering her girlfriend Maya (played by Lilou Siauvaud) and has spent five years out of a nine year sentence in a Marseille prison. She pleads with her father to get her out as she is innocent claiming that she is in prison because she was sleeping with an Arab woman.
Bill is seen as an outsider, so no help comes his way. Still, he forges forward in his battle to get Allison out of prison. The only person willing to help him is single mom, Virginie (played by Virginie Cottin).
Totally playing against type here, Damon is great in the film. Really the prime reason to watch the film. Really conveys a man who hides his seething anger underneath a facade of polite manners. A man who hates himself and much of life around him.
What stops this film from being a truly great one is the ending. After two-thirds of the film being really strong, it peters out in the end. It feels a lot like the director felt the time passing and felt the pressure to wrap it up, so the ending is rather rushed. Takes all the oomph out of the mystery which has been built up over the majority of the film.
-An Alchemy of Viewpoints
-An American in Marseilles: The Location of Stillwater
-With Curiosity & Compassion: Director Tom McCarthy