Stillwater Explained: What’s Up With the Ending?

Bill Baker (Matt Damon) is an ordinary oil worker from the town of Stillwater, Oklahoma. He has an adult daughter, Allison (Abigail Breslin), with whom Bill has a very difficult relationship: he practically did not take part in her upbringing, because when the girl was growing up, Bill worked on all kinds of oil platforms, and in his free time he drank heavily and drug addict.

Allison hated Stillwater, and as soon as the opportunity presented itself, the girl left to study in France, in Marseille. But a tragedy occurred there: at some point, Allison’s neighbor in a rented apartment, with whom the girl had a sexual relationship, was found dead. Direct evidence did not point to Allison, but she had motives, various circumstantial evidence pointed to her, as a result of which the girl was sentenced to several years in prison.

Allison’s mother died a long time ago, and her grandmother, Bill’s mother-in-law Sharon (Deanna Dunagan), visits the girl in prison. However, Sharon herself is seriously ill, she can no longer do without an oxygen apparatus, and then Bill has to go to Marseilles: he, unlike Sharon, does not know a word of French, but still quit drinking and substances, so at least he is sane.

Bill flew to Marseille, met with his daughter, and she said that she had hope: there is a suspect – a certain Akim – who may be involved in the murder. Allison asks Bill to inform Leparc’s lawyer (Anne Le Ni) who is handling Allison’s case.

Bill meets with a lawyer, gives her information from Allison, but she says that this data does not allow the investigation to be resumed. Bill is unable to tell this to his daughter, because he does not want to take away her last hope, and he decides to find this Akim on his own.

He will have to spend a lot of time in Marseille: he gets a job to analyze the destruction caused by a tornado, and it turns out that Bill became very friends with the family of actress Virginia (Camille Cotten), who speaks good English, and her nine-year-old daughter Maya (Lilu Showo).

***

After reading the announcement of this picture, of course, Besson’s “Hostage” immediately surfaced in my head, where a pretty combat pensioner, in search of a daughter kidnapped by vile Albanians, smashed the glorious city of Paris along with half of the Albanian mafia. There is a kidnapped daughter – here is a planted daughter, there is Paris and Albanians – here is Marseille and Arabs, there is a combat pensioner – here is Matt Damon, which means that Jason Bourne will be running around Marseille.

And I didn’t want to watch it at all, enough of these idiotic “Hostages” for me (the second one was especially good there). However, so, purely for a change, I looked at the reviews of those who looked – and perked up. They wrote that they hoped to get a new “Hostage” or, at worst, Bourne, but here there is some kind of sheer despondency and green melancholy: no running around, no fights, no shootings. A dull Damon in the form of a dull redneck walks dejectedly around Marseille and leads a little girl by the hand. Some kind of madhouse, some viewers wrote.

Oh, I thought, this is already interesting, now you can see it. Moreover, the script was not written by Besson at all, the film was directed by Tom McCarthy, who staged the sensational film “In the Center of Attention” (by the way, he was going to see it for a long time), and Matt Damon is a quite worthy actor, he just got knocked down by all this damn borniad, because no normal person can figure out what to do with the twenty million he gets for a role in a film where you can not act at all, but go back and forth.

Well, I finally looked it up. And I was very pleased with this circumstance, because this is precisely a kind of “anti-hostage”: a life-like and realistic drama staged in a very unhurried rhythm, and I would not call the film protracted, and this regularity and a certain meditativeness clearly corresponded to the director’s task.

By the way, the name “Still Pool” is practically a translation of the name of the town of Stillwater, where the Bakers live. At the same time, there is no “silent pool” in which it is known who is found in the film, this is such a false tip.

It is believed that the script is based on the story of American Amanda Knox, who in 2009 was convicted of murdering a British flatmate Meredith Kercher in the Italian city of Perugia. Then direct evidence was not found, nevertheless, Amanda was given twenty-six years. However, four years later the case was reviewed, the evidence was found to be unconvincing, and in 2015 the verdict was completely canceled.

Amanda Knox then became an activist and journalist (Wikipedia article in English about her), she wrote the book “Waiting to be heard”, which became a bestseller.

However, “Still Pool” is not a reconstruction of the Amanda Knox case at all, and there is no mention in the picture that this is all based on real events. And there are quite a few obvious differences with the Amanda Knox case: the action was moved from Italy to France, in the real case, three people were arrested on murder charges – Knox herself, her boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito and her boss Patrick Lumumba, and Knox received long sentences, and Sollecito, there was a widely discussed story about the persecution of the accused in the media, which, of course, influenced the jury, well, in the end, it was not possible to reliably establish who killed Meredith Kercher.

In this film, everything is completely different, and it has in common with the real story almost only that some American student was accused of killing her roommate, nothing more. Nevertheless, the real Amanda Knox, having learned that such a film was coming out, raged on social networks for a long time with posts on the topic “they stole my story” and threatened the creators of the picture with all sorts of lawsuits, but it’s completely incomprehensible why she went bankrupt about this, there are practically no intersections.

Matt Damon in this film has an interesting and completely unexpected image. Bill is such a classic Oklahoma hard worker. In America itself, they are not even called rednecks (red neck – “red neck”), but roughneck (“rough neck”). Laconic, retarded, obviously worried about a mediocre past and the loss of contact with his daughter, absolutely foreign in French Marseilles, with his endless “yes, ma’am”, “no, ma’am”, “yes, sir”, “no, sir” – The character seems to be extremely primitive.

However – no, Matt Damon managed to create a very capacious and characteristic image. There really is not a single gram of any chases, battles and so on. Bill tries to find this Akim, but as soon as he poke his head into the Arab quarter, he immediately picks up specific people from the locals, so we are not in for an exciting detective story. True, there will be one moment with a somewhat unexpectedly twisted actually thriller in the picture, but this does not change the general style in any way.

So what is this movie about? About how this American hard worker gradually adapts to life in Marseille, and his friendship with the Frenchwoman Virginia and her little daughter Maya, to whom Bill became very attached. This is a rather strange friendship – in the sense that they are completely different people – but nevertheless it looks touching, vital and in no way manipulative. (And then I immediately remembered the bad movie “2 + 1” with Omar Sy, which told about a father and his little daughter, and this was just an example of a completely fake and manipulative picture.)

Matt Damon said in an interview that he and the director took a very responsible approach to creating this image. The actor himself did not know anything about Oklahoma and oil rig workers, and he and the director spent a lot of time in these parts: they went with workers to oil rigs and carefully studied their life, trying not to miss a single detail. They were told that drilling workers wear a special type of jeans with a flame retardant composition. And they feel like they are made of cardboard, so the walk in them is very specific. Also, these guys outwardly, as Matt said, are very similar: they grow a beard, wear a baseball cap and sunglasses.

And Matt did a great job of showing how this man, who used to only watch action movies and sports on TV, and when asked by Virginia if he had ever been to the theater, answered in bewilderment: “Why should I go to this damn theater?” – and this is how he gradually begins to immerse himself in this culture and understand how much more diverse this world is and how completely different it is.

Allison played Abigail Breslin from “Welcome to Zombieland” (she also played great in “Little Miss Happy” at the age of ten). The role is small, but bright enough, Breslin is a good character actress.

Camille Cotten as Virginia is very good. Well, Virginia and Bill are so different – well, just like from different planets. Nevertheless, these people somehow get closer, somehow find common ground and help each other.

Maya, played by Lilu Showo, for whom this is the first film, is just some kind of miracle. The girl is incredibly organic, vital and natural. Matt Damon said in an interview that when he first talked to Lilu, he realized that he would have to work with “nine-year-old Meryl Streep.” And he and the director tried to do everything to make shooting for Lilu as interesting, fun and comfortable as possible. And she did not disappoint them. But the girl is really downright amazing.

Great movie, just great, I did not even expect. The staging, the excellent work of Matt Damon, the very good work of the rest of the actors, the unusual interpretation of a seemingly hackneyed plot – I really liked it, downright impressed.

PS At the premiere of the film in Cannes, where Matt Damon arrived, the film was given a five-minute standing ovation. In English-speaking countries, the film has a high rating from critics and an average rating from viewers. In United States, the rating on IMDB is even slightly higher than on IMDB. But, by the way, I listened to a couple of voice acting options that the film has – they spoil the impression. iTunes and intonation does not fit, and from the point of view of translation, there is a lot of crap, although the dialogues seem to be extremely simple. The second option (I don’t know from whom) with voices familiar from voice acting – and the translation is much more accurate, and the voices fit noticeably better.

Stillwater review

Director: Tom McCarthy Cast: Matt Damon, Camille Cotten, Abigail Breslin, Lilu Showo, Deanna Danagan, Idir Azugli, Anne Le Ni, Moussa Maaskri, Isabelle Tanakil, Neidra Ayadi

Worldwide gross: $20 million
Drama, USA, 2021, 139 min.

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