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Stillwater (2021)

- THE red CORNER REVIEW

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red Corner Review September 25th, 2021

"fish-out- of- midwest- America- stillwater dad tries to free his daughter held in a French prison for murdering her lover at University."

EXPECTATIONS: Medium

Legal Thriller mystery on search for Justice? could be good

THE GOOD: time was taken to tell the story and build relationships

THE BAD: some bits didn't make sense

RATING: 5.5 / 10

I think there is enough here to recommend a look

We did miss some of this film because of issues in the cinema with the subtitles. So Blue corner wanted to leave. Bute we stayed, I felt ok to muddle through with my schoolgirl French to assist me. I actually didn't mind as much because we could in a way empathise with the character a little more. Helped us to sit in the
Rarely have I seen a character seem so out of place and out of context as redneck Bill in the streets of Marseille. Sticking out in that way some American tourists just seem to do. There he is with his blue collar, hard working, hard drinking, country song livin' life right there on the streets of France. No Sir, he aint bothered in 4 years to learn him any French to help him communicate when he goes to visit his daughter.
Bill sticks to his routine. He goes where he knows ( subway) to eat. He stays at the same hotel and well bill is a guy who sticks to what he knows.
He meets a charming neighbour in tomato munching Virginie. She is staying in the next door room and Bill befriends her daughter Maya. This was a real strength of this film. Its been so long since I saw that kind of relationship portrayed on screen with such authenticity. against the backdrop of this own daughter and their tense relationship, the puzzling world of French bureaucracy and a country that makes so sense to him. He develops a genuine bond with this little girl. Later in the film when he leaves and she hugs him. I felt that. So much emotion portrayed there in this man who is " a fuck up" in his own daughters words.
Bill goes off to try and investigate the goings on. Even though he don't speak no French and he don't need no help. Well yes Bill you do. Amazing how to make the plot work you need people who at least speak some English. These people speak English too well. Far too well. ending itself to that Hollywood induced mass delusion that everyone can speak English. Nope. Not true.
Also I value that the director took the time to build the relationship with Virginie and bill. They show the easy domesticity and surely it was part of falling in love with him how lovely and crazy he is about her daughter. It was so nice that there was no creepy vibes to it. Nothing bad, It was just genuine. I also enjoyed the scene where bill has the country music on his iPod and they all have a little dance together in the apartment. You get this glimpse of this connected life that Bill would like to have where these people matter to him.
When bill goes to try and find the guy, and what he ultimately does with him needed a little bit more work I thought. More attention was paid to Bill's difficulties and to be honest I would have much rather had the little girl not know he was there. It made me very uncomfortable when is asking a little girl to keep a secret from her mum. It was disappointed in that part, though I realise it created a vector to Bill ultimately, through his actions, Losing what he valued. All in his desperate clumsy attempt to free his innocent daughter.
Only the thing is. She is not so innocent after all as it turns out. The fact that she got a tattoo of the girls name on her wrist in prison felt weird. I felt that in tis movie Allison was somewhat miscast. I felt nothing towards her I didn't really care about her fate. She seemed resentful and angry. All the money her family must have spent to get her there and to support her during her trial and she is speaking to her dad like " hey loser" even down to what she wrote in the letter to the Defence lawyer about her father being incapable. I didn't like the scene of the day out. It felt awkward between them, and end felt kind of abrupt.
Maybe I didn't like her because I didn't believe that she didn't do it! so cynical of me I know. In the last throws of the film, The cheek of the mayor all the pomp and pageantry and show surrounding Allison's return home to Ohio. They are all just sitting there fake smiling. Mayor did nothing. It was all Bill. I think he was wondering if the French were right just a little about the American show-off-ery. The end felt empty and you know what that's ok. I prefer that to a over sugar sweet ending anyways.
Again credit to the script writer and director that they didn't have Bill just turn tail and turn up at her apartment and they lived happily every after with Bill getting his second chance. Sometimes you just mess up too bad to be able to go back. In this case I think kidnapping a man when you are looking after my daughter and then keeping said dude hostage in my basement probably falls into that "no thanks" relationship reboot category.
Though it was also refreshing that Bill has no bloody idea what he is doing. He knows he is finished and possibly going to jail, but heck he is thinking what would Johnny Cash do here. Or more Likely Clint Eastwood! I have to save my innocent daughter. Even if I have to do bad things to do it. I suppose the question many parents watching might have asked themselves. If this was my only chance to save my kid 4 years in a French slammer.... would I do as Bill did. I know my parent would do this to save me!
I also would have liked to have seen a bit more exploration of the different cultural issues that Bill and Virginie encounter. There was a hint of racism, islamophobia and anti American sentiment, but nothing much comes through other than a mild kick. What was that dinner of burger, macaroni and beans?? boke! Likewise I want Bill baffled by French food, French attitudes to getting things done and that famous French bureaucracy. Because of the language barrier, Bill is pretty much immune to it through the film but Virginie certainly is not. In reality Bill would be unable to do very much at all without help. Including working on the building site which I presume was cash in hand because pretty sure Bill got himself a tourist Visa and you can't normally work on a tourist visa.
Overall I liked the film. I appreciated that in many respects they took the road less travelled and delivered an enjoyable watch. Even if it was more of a drama and not the thriller that the trailer seemed to be suggesting to us.

BLUE CORNER'S RATING FOR Stillwater (2021): 5.5 / 10

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