Stillwater (2021) Review

Bill Baker travels to France from Oklahoma to visit his estranged daughter Allison who is in prison for murder, something she claims that she did not commit. When the lawyer won’t reopen the case Bill sees this as an opportunity to make it up to her for being a bad father over the years that he begins searching for more evidence.

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Allison had already been in prison for four years in Marseille and she was adamant that she was innocent despite being found guilty for the murder of Lina her girlfriend who had moved into her apartment with her. She claimed a man named Akim was to blame and that the mystery DNA found at the crime scene belonged to him, but up until now there was no trace of Akim.

Bill had only planned a short trip as he had to get back home to work more, struggling to get a full time job he had been doing odd jobs and working in construction. Staying in a hotel he meets Virginie who lies to him about being able to speak English, but to make it up for him she ends up translating as Bill investigates into Akim, with people talking about him bragging about killing a girl once. Virginie ends up renting a room in her apartment to Bill and he helps take care of her young daughter Maya, picking her up from school and they teach each other English/French words mainly for tools.

The story has a much deeper meaning than it may first appear as we quickly learnt that Allison does not think much of her father and cannot rely on him to do anything for her. He was rather absent during her childhood and she was raised by her grandmother Sharon who was now too sick to travel to France to see her. With Maya this feels like a second chance and a redemption for Bill, caring for her and helping to raise her. Obviously this was never going to be straightforward and the relationship with Virginie was actually really nice because it wasn’t forced or too quick. It was a slow build up and it could have been something very special, but Bill’s quest to prove his daughters innocence would push him to places that he would never believe he would go to.

At one point mind I actually had hoped Bill would just leave her in the prison, when she was so utterly cruel to him! I mean come on he was actually doing everything possible to help her and the fact that he could not speak French made it even more difficult, even going to the extreme of being badly beaten up as he searched for some answers. I’m not going to spoil the small twist towards the end, but I did have a slight feeling that was the direction it was going in.

Stillwater is the name of the small town in Oklahoma where they are from and I thought that was the perfect title for the links within the film. Strong performances with a fantastic lead from Matt Damon, at times I really do feel he doesn’t get enough credit for his willingness to take on any type of role and his nature in this one worked so very well. Camille Cottin was a standout performance as well though, having dialogue in both English and mainly French, very impressive it has to be said. I am sure most will agree though that Lilou Siauvaud was the ultimate scene stealer and fantastic in each and every scene she appeared in, working so well with both Damon and Cottin.

Probably seen as a slow burner for many but I thought the build up and suspense were fantastic and it did not feel as long as the two hour and twenty minute running time, so please don’t let that put you off.

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