Tom McCarthy directs Matt Damon, Camille Cottin and Abigail Breslin in this drama where a working class dad moves to Marseille to solve the crime his daughter has been sent to prison for.
Not the movie it has been sold as, certainly not the movie a minor Twitter hype storm has branded it as. Yes, a central aspect of the plot is an American student convicted of a crime under dubious circumstances like the infamous Amanda Knox case. But that seems a leaping off point for a very different story arc. Matt Damon’s hulking deadbeat only spends a small section of the story chasing leads and getting into fights. There’s a certain degree of irony to seeing Jason Bourne struggling in council estate scuffles. Yet if you’ve come for effective detective work or All-American dogooding you’ve come to the wrong shop. Slowly the mood gives way to a tale of redemption, rehabilitation and self realisation. Like, say, Gran Torino or Manchester By The Sea, we patiently follow a macho character finding a new lease of life within a makeshift family and unlikely community. The thriller aspects rear their head again in the finale… but are resolved with a dismissive ambiguity. McCarthy, by stealth, is making a film about how America views itself now that innocence has been long lost and the values it once held incontrovertible have been rejected or diminished. It is a complex movie that ends with two characters sitting on a porch, their worldview and understanding of themselves completely warped and altered. Marketed as a classy Taken this is some far more flavoursome stew than the meat and potatoes we were promised. I wonder if like Spotlight, Stillwater will grow on me over the years… it certainly has that potential.
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