Stillborn

In a parallel universe, Stillwater exists as two different movies. In one, Matt Damon’s southern-fried Kentucky oil driller ends up in France and finds a middle age romance with a French theater actress. The other is a toughened, muscular Damon traveling to French inner cities to absolve his daughter of a murder she didn’t commit. Mix those, and somehow that’s Stillwater.

Loosely based on a true story (of which the real Amanda Knox called out as phony), there’s a charming indie, culture-commentating romantic comedy filling an entire act in Stillwater. In its own way, seeing Damon interact with the French through his awkward politeness brings levity. Yet, it’s so overlong, Damon’s daughter (Abigail Breslin) becomes secondary until her plight is coincidentally returned to the narrative.

Stillwater comes across as being unwilling to engage in an honest debate

Too often, the murder case itself feels ancillary as Stillwater seeks to break the Fox News-watching, eagle-tattoo having alpha male from his comfort zone. A stilted conversation as to whether he voted for Trump leads into another about gun control and ownership, all a means to make Damon take a culture shock to the head. This as he begins falling for a local single mother and her daughter, which becomes a means to make amends for his own parenting failures.

There’s significant agitation about political and legal systems. Damon represents the idea of southern justice, but within a stiff, upper class, sheltered neighborhood. In the final act, it matters. Stillwater does reach a critical, emotional peak where the clashing ideals blend into one another. Damon attends a play, while roommate (and more) Camille Cottin bows to a need to make right outside of the system.

Making this cohesive instead of outwardly awkward is at issue. Small comedic moments finds Damon offered a mint tea by a college professor, the two men so obviously disparate as to be unrecognizable to one another. A lot is done to tone down Damon’s character, maybe to pacify a liberal-leaning audience who are against Damon’s stances. In softening that hard-headed, blue collar conservative mindset, Stillwater comes across as being unwilling to engage in an honest debate, this while a young girl sits in prison, losing her identity and self. Whether an enjoyably produced romance or not, seeing Damon find another part of himself while his own kin rots in jail comes across as grossly selfish.

Video

Stillwater’s digital cinematography takes a notably yellow tint and pushes it over much of the imagery. As such, the aesthetic runs pale, flattening shadows into a dry gray. It’s dull by way of intent. Contrast isn’t held to the same check, brightening the scenery and giving Stillwater its visual life.

Digital noise bounces between non-existent, mild, and heavy. Shadows, being what they are, don’t hide the source artifacts. Encoding is a bit rough in spots too because of this. Luckily, that’s not robbing any detail.

As such, it’s a well-textured, precise presentation. Facial definition looks superb in close. Wide shots of France maintain the city’s glamour through stellar sharpness. Stillwater comes from a 4K source, so it’s a shame Universal passes on a UHD release. Thankfully the Blu-ray holds enough information to stand out.

Audio

Being dialog-driven, the DTS-HD track remains front-loaded, even centered. Moderate energy stems from the score, filling the soundfield and running into the low-end. Mixing doesn’t add much in ambiance despite the busy streets, cafes, and other locales. It’s bland. The notable aural motion comes from cars passing on the street, splitting the stereos.

Stillwater finally opens up inside a stadium, the crowd noise awesome, and some fireworks exploding in the rears. it’s something at least.

Extras

A short five-minute EPK explores the characters. An even briefer look at the location shoot comes next, with a briefer still look at director Tom McCarthy comes up last.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Stillwater
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
3

Movie

An overlong, genre turducken of a movie, Stillwater’s pieces work, but never connect as a cohesive whole.

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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 49 full resolution, uncompressed HD screen shots grabbed directly from the Blu-ray: