Metacritic (6/10), Rotten Tomatoes (***)
When it comes to writer-director Tom McCarthy’s latest offering, one can’t help but wonder, is this the story of an amateur crime investigation or the touching tale of a father with a past seeking redemption? Well, it appears to be some of both and not much of either. Allegedly based loosely on the headline-grabbing story of American college student Amanda Knox, who was falsely convicted of murder and imprisoned in Italy, this fictional work employs a similar narrative, with the venue relocated to France and supplemented by the accused’s roughneck Oklahoma dad seeking to find the perpetrator in the slums of Marseilles. In the course of his implausible investigation, he meets, befriends and moves in with a single mother and her young daughter, who help him with his sleuthing and provide him with an opportunity to redeem himself for past transgressions and oversights. However, these two story threads don’t mesh particularly well and never quite engage the audience as effectively as they could have. And, despite the excellent lead performance of Matt Damon and the fine supporting portrayals of Camille Cottin and Lilou Siauvaud, any speculation that this overlong saga could be an early Oscar contender is significantly overblown and off-base. The film has also drawn considerable criticism from Ms. Knox, who has publicly contended that the production is profiting from her story and conveying false impressions about her character and reputation, despite official claims that this is purely a work of fiction. In any event, “Stillwater” generally falls flat and far short of expectations in many respects, and viewers would be wise to bear that in mind before taking the ample time to give this one a look.