It’s been a strange and interesting year and one the has culminated in a five minute standing ovation for the cast of Stillwater at the 2021 Cannes Film Fesitval. Did they deserve such accolades. Abso-freaking-lutley!!!!
Matt Damon is a bonafide movie star of epic proportions and of all his roles, it’s Bill Baker that brings his career full circle. As a blue collar working Dad, Baker’s life got turned upside down. Yearly, making the trek from Oklahoma to France in an effort to assist Allison (Abigail Breslin), who is in prison for a murder she claims she didn’t commit and desperate to prove her innocence, this is a Dad who finds himself on an spiritual and emotional journey of a lifetime.
Directed by the amazing Tom McCarthy, the layers to which this unfolds are quite intriguing and just when you think you know…you realized that you don’t know anything at all. Now, we all know the story is loosely based on the story of Amanda Knox, the young American woman jailed for murder in Europe and was ultimately released and returned stateside.
Politics aside, the performance of Damon, Camille Cottin (Virginie), Abigail Breslin (Allison) and Lilou Siauvaud (Maya) are so layered and complicated that collectively and individually they break your heart into a million pieces. Baker’s love for Allison, Virginie and Maya has no boundaries, even at the expense of his own happiness and future. The chemistry between Cottin and Damon is off the charts and one of their most endearing scenes involves them dancing cheek-to-cheek to an old Sammy Smith country classic, “Help Me Make It Through The Night.” That song serves as a metaphor and theme song for Baker throughout Stillwater and provides a simple, sweet moment.
But the real star of Stillwater is Lilou Siauvaud. Her acting prowess far exceeds her years on this earth and will keep audiences riveted and emotionally tattered throughout. She’s definitely and old soul who has inhabited this planet before. Her scenes with Damon are funny, soul stirring and emotional on a visceral level. Being a Dad with many girls in his home, without a doubt impacted matt Damon’s inhabitation of Bill baker. The two of them together is pure and simple magic.
Stillwater, in an undercover manner, puts a subtle spotlight on the racial politics within France, as Bill grabs a lead taking him to a Black/Arab housing project. My only problem with all of this is that it almost makes this community look like an annoyingly dangerous backdrop for the white characters to appear somewhat heroic. Although I realize this trope is used as a setup for a some vital plot info to be revealed in the third chapter of the film, as a Black woman, it didn’t go unnoticed from my vantage point.
One the of most important lines spoken sums up all these characters and their journey perfectly, “It all looks different to me, I don’t recognize it anymore.” Bill Baker and anyone whose life he has touched has been changed forever through a journey and self reckoning that only comes from self sacrifice and growth. I loved Stillwater and you will too.