Film Review: Stillwater – 6/10

‘Life is brutal…’

Some films you just know in your heart of hearts will be a bit dull. Normally you can tell by the poster or the title, or even the running time. Sometimes it’s a mixture of all three. So. Title: Stillwater. Poster: Matt Damon with a beard looking sad. Running time: 180 minutes (!). As I’ve previously argued, no film needs to be longer than two hours. This film definitely shouldn’t be. And yet. I did enjoy some of it…

Bill (Damon) travels to France to try to clear his daughter’s (Abigail Breslin) name following five long years of incarceration. Upon arriving in Marseille, he befriends local actor and activist Virginie (Camille Cottin) who inexplicably puts up with Bill’s shit for two hours despite the fact that he acts like a jackass the whole time.

Loosely based on the terrible miscarriage of justice imposed on Amanda Knox following the murder of British student Meredith Kercher, Stillwater takes that premise and uses it to explore… I’m not sure really. Father/daughter relationships? The criminal justice system? America? It’s not really clear. And this is one of the flaws that ensures that Damon’s otherwise very solid performance is mostly wasted. The aforementioned running time is the thing that really hamstrings the talented cast however. By the time we reach the films undoubtedly tense conclusion, any suspense has already mostly dissipated. The romantic entanglement of the two leads is mostly unnecessary and the pacing ensures that there are too many scenes of Matt Damon looking sadly into the middle distance. Even if he does do it convincingly.

By the film’s conclusion, we somehow haven’t spent enough time with Breslin’s accused murderer for the ending to pack any kind of emotional punch. In the end, this is a competent film but one that inspired not a single emotion in my black heart. Not good enough.