I had absolutely zero clue what this movie was about. Not only that, but I had it in my head that the film starred Mark Wahlberg and I did not realize that it was not Wahlberg and was, in fact, Matt Damon until well into the movie. Not my best moment.

However, I really enjoyed Stillwater, so there is that.

Mat Damon (not Mark Wahlberg) played American Bill Baker, who left his hometown of Stillwater, Oklahoma to go to Marseille, France to see his daughter Allison (Abigail Breslin), who had been serving time in prison for the murder of her female lover. Allison claimed to be innocent and she wanted her father to go see a local lawyer with new information. Unfortunately, the new evidence was hearsay and the lawyer told Bill that she would not move forward with an appeal.

Bill decided that he would look into the new evidence himself, which meant searching for a young Muslim boy Akim (Idir Azougli) who had been overhead bragging about getting away with stabbing a girl.

Along the way, Bill meets Virginie (Camile Cottin) and her young daughter Maya (Lilou Siauvaud) whom he befriends. Virginie helped with translation and Bill bonds with Maya.

Some of the best scenes of the movie were between Matt Damon and Lilou Siauvaud. She was a charming young actress and she held her own against Damon. Comparing that relationship with the damaged relationship of Bill and Allison is fascinating as well.

Matt Damon is at his best here. He played a typical redneck American, but he showed so much more than the normal stereotype. He made Bill such a respectful and apparently decent individual that you can understand the pain he was going through. I know that I was hoping that the tough circumstances was not going to drive him back to alcohol, which apparently had been a problem for him in the past. When the film chose not to go in that direction, I was quite happy about it.

The film was too long. I think it should have shaved 10-15 minutes off the time, which would have made it a tighter story. However, I absolutely liked how this movie avoided the clichés that movies like this would usually fall into. You are never quite sure where the movie is heading and that is a nice change of pace.

Academy Award winning director Tom McCarthy directed Stillwater which was apparently loosely based on the story of Amanda Knox, who had been falsely imprisoned in Italy. Amanda Knox has struck back on the film, claiming that the film is profiting off her story.

Despite the controversy, as film itself, I enjoyed Stillwater. As I said, I had no idea what the film was about going in and that helped my enjoyment of the movie.

4 stars

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