By Paul Hall
As a parent, you only want the best for your children. You want them to be happy, healthy and successful, but most importantly, to have a better life than the one you have known.
In Still water, the new film from director Tom McCarthy, this path takes a detour from Oklahoma to France and back.
Bill Baker (Matt Damon) and his daughter Allison (Abigail Breslin) haven’t had the most idyllic lives. Growing up in small town Oklahoma, Bill rebounded from job to job and didn’t play the most active role in his daughter’s life. Allison traveled to France for school and only occasionally visits her father.
While Bill believed for years that his daughter was destined for an experiment at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, Allison makes the decision to travel to France for her studies. This is where life changes for Allison, her father, and everyone they both love.
Allison was jailed in France, charged and convicted of the murder of his girlfriend. His father is his support system, traveling frequently to visit him and bring him supplies. When Allison entrusts her father with the task of delivering a message to her, she is a little worried that he will finish the task. It’s a simple note to those who stood up for her: She has new evidence that she wants them to investigate who might release her.
Still water is a film that balances mystery, suspense, and the relationships that are affected by a life-changing event. He manages to keep the audience off balance throughout and never really knowing what’s coming next.
Damon plays a rather different role than most of his past endeavors. Bill is straightforward but determined and searches for a variety of things, from ways to help his daughter to her own goal in life. The varied storylines allow Damon to disappear into his role, which he takes full advantage of in his performance.
Although Still water is a bit messy in the structure of the story, the supporting cast do their best as the story progresses through some tough times. Breslin and Camille Cottin are sometimes hard to believe in the way they are portrayed. I loved Cottin as a French Virginie who takes Bill under her wing and develops a mutually beneficial relationship.
Visually, I was drawn to the look of the variety of French culture and the juxtaposition with the Oklahoma landscape. The crowded streets of France’s poorest neighborhoods stand in stark contrast to the dusty nature of Oklahoma.
I loved Still water. It is the journey of a thinking man through the relationships, life and intersections of the two. Our decisions matter, no matter where you are physically or mentally.
Paul’s Note: A-
Actors: Matt Damon, Abigail Breslin, Camille Cottin
Director: Tom McCarthy