From the director of the Oscar-winning SPOTLIGHT, STILLWATER is a surprisingly effective drama featuring an unusual Matt Damon performance and a story on differences in several cultures in the United States and France.
The movie opens almost immediately on this cultural difference, as Bill Butler (Damon) is seen hard at work to earn money to visit his daughter Allison (Abigail Breslin) who is in a French prison for a murder of her lover she claims she didn’t commit. There are quite a few surprising dramatic twists & turns here but not in a standard thriller way; McCarthy, a filmmaker who has always been very smart in his storytelling and focuses more on Damon and his relationship with a French woman and his daughter as he battles not only with local lawyers, investigators and trying to find out the truth himself but also his past demons. Bill is a really interesting character with a deep past.
Filmmaker Tom McCarthy takes a more personal journey here than he did with SPOTLIGHT, which focused on the media and a horrible discovery of the atrocities of sexual abuse in religious power. Even so, that was a very human story about the press corps. Here in STILLWATER, he captures the obvious fish-out-of-water element of Damon’s gruff American and his values in There is a mild controversy over the fact the movie focuses on the father more than the daughter who was in prison for years, but STILLWATER is less a movie on prison life and is more interesting to see Bill’s struggle and finding himself again.
About The Blu Ray:
What’s interesting about some releases, especially from Universal and Warner, is that they go only as far to release a Blu Ray edition of a movie but also include a Digital Copy code which redeems to 4k streaming. So what I typically do now is redeem the Digital Code and in this case screen the movie on my Chromecast as it redeems to Google Play/YouTube, then compare to the Blu Ray disc edition. Both transfers are VERY solid of course, with an edge to the 4k version, making me wish there was an ultra High-Def disc release. The movie is shot digitally on ArriRaw and is slightly toned in the France sequences for a cold but effective look. Colors are very strong as well. The sound is in DTS Master Audio and while the 5.1 is mostly dialogue heavy in the front, there are some light surrounds, especially in the music, that are quite effective.
On the bonus front, there are just the standard production featurettes including An Achlemy of Viewpoints, An American In Marseilles: The Locations of Stillwater & a feature on filmmaker Tom McCarthy called With Curiosity & Compassion. As mentioned earlier, the Digital Copy code DOES redeem to 4k on Google Play and if you are able to stream this way, it actually makes it a good purchase along with having a physical copy on your shelf if that’s your game.
A somewhat overlooked movie this year, I quite liked the performances and especially the differences in culture between middle America and France that are somewhat surprising at times, and I also admired how it all wrapped up on a pretty realistic note. Universal has put out a pretty bare-bones release here, but it’s nicely packaged and presented.
STILLWATER is now on Blu Ray and Digital from Universal. Many thanks as always to Universal PR for sending along a copy for review.