27/10/21 21:49 Filed in: 2021
Directed by: Tom McCarthy
Starring: Matt Damon
Warning! This is NOT a movie review. This is a critique of the film. Intended to initiate a dialogue, the following analysis explores various aspects of the film and may contain spoilers. For concerns over objectionable content, please first refer to one of the many parental movie guide websites. Ratings are based on a four star system. Happy reading!
The movie is named after the Oklahoma town which serves as the bookend location in Stillwater. As opposed to its eponym, the dramatic waters in this film are anything but still.
Matt Damon plays Bill Baker, a divorced oil-rig driller whose daughter, Allison (Abigail Breslin) has been accused of a murder and is languishing in a French prison. Between jobs, Bill manages to scrape enough cash together to visit Allison and bring her gifts, like an Oklahoma State Cowboys hoodie. Sadly, Allison sees her former alcoholic dad as a mess up and her relationship with him is estranged, despite his best efforts to patch things up.
On his most recent visit to Marseille, Bill is assisted by Virginie (Camille Cottin). Bill forms a close bond with Virginie’s young daughter Maya (Lilou Siauvaud), and eventually falls in love with Virginie…at which point his life begins to implode.
The movie is about choices and how people tend to go to extremes when protecting the ones they love. Bill makes a series of bad decisions that threaten his newly-formed French family and nearly land him in jail. The climactic bombshell revelation, that Allison might not be as innocent as she claims, sets up a bittersweet denouement and a downer ending.
Director Tom McCarthy does an excellent job of contrasting the U.S. and French locations. The cinematography serves a double purpose of capturing the character of these two worlds while revealing how these two worlds impact the characters.
It’s hard to imagine a more fish-out-of-water scenario then dropping someone like Bill into a bustling French city. His attempts at learning to speak French are amusing; especially his comment about how many syllables it takes to say “chisel.”
Damon deftly inhabits his character and is thoroughly convincing as the rough-living roughneck trying to do right by his daughter. As good as Damon is, the supporting cast is excellent, especially Cottin, who grounds the story’s more contrived elements in reality. Siauvaud is cute as a button.
In the end, this family drama with crime elements and Parisian flair won’t be everyone’s cup of joe. Though it has shades of Taken (2008), this well written clash of cultures tale will inhabit a unique corner in the “intercontinental, daughter in trouble, father takes matters into his own hands” genre.
Rating: 3 out of 4