Who is ready for the new Matt Damon film where he is from the American Heartland and sporting a thick goatee? Unfortunately, many people seem to be identifying Tom McCarthy’s new drama strictly based on Damon’s distinct look and accent for the film. Why is this so disappointing? There are SO many other great reasons to get excited about Stillwater. McCarthy carries that Best Picture moment he had for Spotlight and delivers a must-see drama filled with heart, pain, and suspense.
What makes Stillwater so memorable and moving? There are plenty of reasons, but I feel like you must first discuss Damon. He gives one of the most nuanced and moving performances of his career. His tough exterior is only the canvas for subtle acting choices that add plenty of layers to this blue-collar man. The shades of focused staring he does in this film is impressive as he channels either anger, insecurity, or love. Damon can capture the insecure emotions of this stoic man and at the same time can open the flood gates to deliver poignant emotions. His chemistry with the cast is off the chart.
Speaking of…how does the supporting cast stack up against this Awards-bound Damon performance? The most heartwarming and endearing (and sadly tragic) connection Damon’s Bill has is with the young Maya. This young girl is portrayed by the game Lilou Siauvaud whose immediate charm captures the hearts of the audience and Damon. Their sweet and endearing connection is the real heart of the film acting as the redemptive parental connection that Bill denied his daughter. His daughter gets to shine as well with Abigail Breslin delivering a raw and moving performance. The climatic moments with Damon and a raw and vulnerable confession next to the ocean are just two scenes of quite a few where Breslin shines. Last…but far from the least is Camille Cottin who delivers an incredible performance as Damon’s love interest and roommate, Virginie. Cottin brings layers to this performance as her glances with Damon and Siauvaud spell wonders. The acting in this film is top notch with a few performances deserving of recognition.
The acting can steal the show but what about McCarthy’s efforts? He kills it. That could be it…but I will elaborate. The subtly in his direction is beautiful. One scene where love fills the room when Damon, Cottin, and Siauvaud just glance at each other is enough evidence of this. There are moments of fear and shock that makes your stomach drop and it is followed with sequences of poignant tension. McCarthy can manipulate the emotions of his film with absolute precision as Stillwater leaves you broken and moved all at the same time. This is a beautiful film as well with framing and camera work that engrossed and impressed me. The music matches McCarthy deft handling of the tones and emotions. Could the pacing be a bit better for this nearly two-and-a-half-hour film? Sure…but I was interested through the end.
So…is Stillwater a must-see drama of the summer season? McCarthy returns to form with this film full of grief, redemption, and suffering. There is a tragic mystery at the heart of this narrative that brings plenty of tension that challenges all the characters involved. The themes might be too close to the surface with the script obnoxiously spelling them out, but they are poignant none-the-less. Damon and the rest of the cast are at their best; ready to take the audience on an impactful emotional journey.