Stillwater (2021) Movie Review: Matt Damon at his best in slightly overlong drama

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Stillwater was released in U.S. cinemas on July 30th with a runtime of 140 minutes. As of right now, it holds a 75% on Rotten Tomatoes, with 122 reviews from critics. The film is directed by Tom McCarthy.

Stillwater follows Bill Baker, as he goes on a journey to France in an attempt to exonerate his daughter from a murder that she claims she didn’t commit. Along this journey, Bill has to adapt to an entirely different culture, learn to love again, and regain his daughter’s trust.

The Good

The first obvious positive of this film is that it stars Matt Damon. I honestly had no clue what to expect from his performance in this feature, just because I haven’t really heard much about it at all prior to release date. Typically, a movie starring Matt Damon would be the biggest release of the weekend, but with The Green Knight and Jungle Cruise coming out on the same date, that just doesn’t seem to be the case.

I was thoroughly impressed and also surprised at just how effective Damon’s performance was. I can safely say that I never thought that I needed to see Matt Damon as a redneck and speaking country drawl, until I saw Stillwater. He conveyed a great degree of emotion and pain through his performance, which really affected me. While Damon’s acting was exceptional, he definitely wasn’t alone in carrying the film.

Lilou Siauvaud, who played Maya, captured the screen every time that she appeared. Her relationship with Damon (Bill Baker) was the highlight of the entire movie.

Camille Cottin, who played Bill’s love interest, Virginie, so effortlessly carried entire dialogue sequences, even while sharing the screen with Damon.

The final actor who I would like to highlight is Abigail Breslin, who played Bill’s daughter, Allison. While this story is about Bill trying to free his daughter, Breslin’s character really takes the sideline compared to Maya and Virginie. Nonetheless, her connection with Damon felt authentic, which lifted the story to another level.

As I previously stated, it was really the triplet combo of Bill, Virginie, and Maya that stole the show. The vast majority of the movie is spent with these three characters, helping Bill become more accustomed with the new culture that surrounds him. Because their chemistry came so easily, Stillwater didn’t need to rely on puns and jokes to make the audience laugh. The humor was completely organic, as it was naturally funny to see Bill being challenged, yet still hilariously attempting to learn a new language and become more familiar with a culture outside of the U.S.

Bill and Maya in Stillwater
Bill and Maya in Stillwater

Besides the acting and character development, Stillwater was also surprisingly well paced for a 140 minute-long film, up until the third act. Even though it was entirely a slow-burn, I didn’t feel any lackluster or boring moments in the first two-thirds of the movie.

Finally, I appreciated how Stillwater didn’t succumb to the cliché happy ending like most Hollywood films do. The phrase “life is brutal” is said multiple times by the characters and I’m glad that they stuck true to that belief and created a more heart-wrenching, realistic ending; where not everything is perfect. It might have made me leave the theater a little more sad, but it also made me respect the film that much more.

The Bad

The third act was the main issue that I had with Stillwater, for multiple reasons.

First, the film slowly begins to lead you in one direction in the second act and then all of a sudden Damon’s character did something that didn’t seem to match how he was acting in the first two-thirds of the film at all. After you watch the movie, you will know the exact moment that I am talking about, when everything changes. The whole situation lacked the reality that Stillwater had originally made me accustomed to, which took away from a very strong storyline up to that point.

Along with that, the third act just seemed to take so much longer to get through. The pacing had been exceptional up to this section of the film, but for some reason it just began to wear on me. I don’t know of any specific moments that could have been cut from Stillwater, but I definitely think that this movie should’ve hovered around the 120-minute mark, rather than the 140 that it brought to the screen.

Final Verdict

Stillwater is a film that was ramping up to be one of my favorites of the year up until its third act. What was such a grounded story, seemed to take such a weird, dark turn with no thought at all. The actions that Bill took throughout the third act seemed inconsistent and it did slightly hinder this movie for me.

Nonetheless, the actual ending of the film left me satisfied and I really did have a tremendous time seeing Bill Baker attempting to learn the French culture and language. All in all, I would recommend that you go see Stillwater in theaters. It has its problems, but what movie doesn’t!

Rating: 7 out of 10 on the scale of awesomeness!

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Thank you for reading my review of Stillwater and feel free to let me know what you thought of the film in the comments! And as always…


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