Linda Cook review: ‘Stillwater’ is one of Matt Damon’s best performances

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“Stillwater” isn’t the setting for much of this movie.

In this murder mystery that’s also a character study, two of the main characters are from that Oklahoma town. They carry Stillwater’s culture and mannerisms with them in every scene they’re in.

Bill Baker (Matt Damon) has worked on oil rigs most of his life. Now, after he was laid off, he works part-time construction jobs while he deals with a terrible burden: His American daughter Allison (Abigail Breslin) is in prison in Marseille.

Over the last five years, Bill has visited his daughter as much as he can, while she contends she is innocent of murdering her roommate,

When Bill finds a thread that may lead to a clue to help Allison, he becomes determined to find the man she mentions, even though he does not speak French nor does he understand the society.

Bill’s friendly neighbors Maya (the luminous Lilou Siauvaud) and her mother Virginie (Camille Cottin) become his only true connection with the country in which he finds himself. They become a lifeline for Bill, who looks as out-of-place as he feels.

The movie is loosely – very loosely – based – on the real-life, story of Amanda Knox, an American woman who since has been acquitted after she spent several years in an Italian prison when she was convicted of murdering her roommate. (Knox has expressed her distaste for the film on twitter, and you can read her comments here.)

This is one of Damon’s best performances. It’s not just his baseball cap and plaid shirt that make him an outcast. It’s the way he wears them, his insistence on speaking English, and his barely contained impatience when he meets anyone who might be able to help Allison.

Although this is fiction, it contains a lot of truths about families and the extremes to which love can drive us.

3 1/2 stars

Running time: Two hours and 20 minutes.

Rated: R for violence, foul language and sexual situations.

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