Stillwater parents guide

Stillwater Parent Guide

The extended runtime gives this movie real pacing problems, with a notable lull about two-thirds of the way in.

Overall C-

In Theaters: Allison Baker was in Marseilles for a year of study abroad, but has since found herself arrested for a murder she did not commit. Her only hope is her father, Bill, who has come to France to find a way, any way, to exonerate her.

Release date July 30, 2021

Violence C
Sexual Content C
Profanity D
Substance Use B-

Why is Stillwater rated R? The MPAA rated Stillwater R for language.

Run Time: 140 minutes

Parent Movie Review

For the past four years, oil patch roughneck and construction worker Bill Baker (Matt Damon) of Stillwater, Oklahoma has been flying to Marseilles. This isn’t a vacation, though: He goes to visit his daughter, Allison (Abigail Breslin), who has been in prison there for the murder of her roommate while she was a student. Although Bill is certain of her innocence, the French justice system has long finished with the case, and her odds of early release are low. But when Allison slips him a letter with a lead on a potential suspect, Bill begins to hope…until their lawyer dismisses the evidence outright. If Bill wants this investigated, he’s going to have to do it himself – which is going to be nearly impossible, as he doesn’t speak French. Fortunately for him, he meets Virginie (Camille Cottin) and her daughter Maya (Lilou Siauvaud), Virginie is willing to translate for him in return for some help around her ramshackle apartment.

I have two big issues with this movie. The first is that it’s nearly two and a half hours long. Movie runtime is like dog years, so two and a half hours on screen is like two months outside. The pacing suffers as a result, with a notable lull about two thirds of the way in. For those of you not watching the film as part of your job, you can consider this a thoughtful intermission, during which time you could nap, go to the bathroom, and/or grab a snack – depending on how long you plan to nap.

The second problem is that this is very clearly based on the story of Amanda Knox, who has publicly condemned the film for cashing in on her life. While I don’t think she has exclusive rights to a wrongful conviction story, this one is remarkably similar, and I can absolutely see why she would be upset about it. I’d be downright livid if someone used the worst moment of my life to make a quick buck, and unless you’re a much calmer person than most, you would be too.

Those problems aside for the moment, this movie is much better than I had feared. From the trailer, I was expecting two-plus hours of “rah-rah America”, in which Matt Damon goes to some godless European city and teaches them how things are done in the middle of nowhere, Oklahoma. That’s thankfully not what happens. While the cultural differences between Oklahoma and Marseilles certainly come up, they are by no means the focus of the film. This is a movie about how our choices affect not only ourselves but our relationships with the people around us. It’s surprisingly restrained in that regard – most of the time, anyway.

If you’re planning on seeing this despite the unholy runtime, you ought to know what’s in it. The biggest issue is profanity, and between French and English cussing you end up with just under 30 f-bombs – although since they’re spread over roughly a week, it could have been worse. There are also some scenes depicting hand-to-hand violence, references to suicide, and fairly frequent drinking and smoking. But after all, this is France, and where would France be without wine and cigarettes? I guess you’d still have croissants…

Directed by Tom McCarthy. Starring Matt Damon, Abigail Breslin, and Camille Cottin. Running time: 140 minutes. Theatrical release July 30, 2021. Updated

Watch the trailer for Stillwater

Rating & Content Info

Why is Stillwater rated R? Stillwater is rated R by the MPAA for language.

Violence: An individual is severely beaten and another knocked unconscious in two different physical altercations. A person is shown with injuries resulting from an attempted suicide. One character is imprisoned in a basement and shown with bruises and blood on their clothes.
Sexual Content: There are several brief non-descriptive references to sex. A couple is briefly shown having sex without nudity.
Profanity:  There are 28 sexual expletives and 25 scatological curses, and occasional uses of mild profanities and terms of deity. There is one scene containing extremely racist language.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Adults are seen drinking socially and occasionally smoking.

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Stillwater Parents' Guide

Bill and Allison both make decisions with difficult emotional and legal consequences. How do they face these consequences? Do you think it affects how they make decisions going forward? How frequent are false convictions in your country? How about in France? Or the United States? What are some differences between the French justice system and the American system?

Equal Justice Initiative: Wrongful Convictions

About France: The French Legal System

Erasmus Law Review: Correcting Wrongful Convictions in France

This is based on the story of Amanda Knox. What happened in her case? What do you think could have prevented that conviction? What were the effects of that case on her family? Do you think Amanda Knox is right to complain about the film?

Wikipedia: Amanda Knox

Medium: Who Owns My Name?

Home Video

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This movie has some curious parallels with director Denis Villeneuve’s Prisoners, starring Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal. It also functions as a curious counterpoint to the over-the-top parental protection in the Liam Neeson action vehicle Taken. Other films about miscarriages of justice include Just Mercy, If Beale Street Could Talk, Brian Banks, The Green Mile, and The Fugitive. For more about crime and policing in France, you can watch Les Miserables.