Stillwater Borrows From The Amanda Knox Case

Matt Damon stars as "Bill" in director Tom McCarthy's STILLWATER, a Focus Features release. Photo credit: Jessica Forde/Focus Features.

Stillwater, the new Tom McCarthy film starring Matt Damon, borrows heavily from the events that transpired during the Amanda Knox case.

There’s a few key differences between Allison Baker (Abigail Breslin) and Amanda Knox. For one, Knox’s case took place in Italy and came while she was studying abroad. Two, both of her parents were alive and from what I can tell, neither were blue collar workers. But it’s the gist of the case that the screenplay borrows from with regards to Baker’s case. She discovers that her roommate was killed and professes her innocence only to be sent to prison. When we first meet Bill Baker (Matt Damon), it’s been a few years since his daughter has been sent to prison and he’s visiting her again in Marseille to drop off supplies. However, Allison has a new tip that she wants the attorney to pursue.

When it becomes clear that the attorney isn’t going to press further, Bill takes things into his own hands. Not quite Taken style but he’s going to do what he can for his daughter and find this Akim figure. Who knows what will happen when he does? Bill has no problem lying to Allison so as to not give her any false hope but there isn’t much else he can do. He befriends a French actress, Virginie (Camille Cottin), and her young daughter, Maya (Lilou Siauvaud), along the journey. It feels like a romantic relationship gets forced onto us as viewers but it’s one of the ways that the script is able to stretch things a bit from the Knox case. That and there’s no way that Bill is just going to be the guy that lives with them. It just wouldn’t be plausible in this era.

Abigail Breslin and Matt Damon in Stillwater
Abigail Breslin (left) stars as “Allison” and Matt Damon (right) stars as “Bill” in director Tom McCarthy’s STILLWATER, a Focus Features release. Photo credit: Jessica Forde/Focus Features.

It’s funny to look at the history behind the film. At one point, this could have been a thriller in a European port city. The resulting film certainly isn’t and maybe this is a good thing. Of course, the major change in the process would come during 2016. I think we all know why. In terms of the film, cinematographer Masanobu Takayanagi has one look for Stillwater at the start and another look for Marseille. Upon arriving back in Stillwater for the end, there’s another look as if the stay in Marseille adds some flavor. Of course, will only last for so long.

When it comes to understanding Stillwater, you don’t need to be super familiar with what happened during the Amanda Knox case. At the same time though, asking your audience to sit through almost two and a half hour is a lot. The film could certainly benefit from dropping some twenty minutes of run time because it’s a lot. I’m sorry, Matt Damon–I ran out of time.

Edited to Add: When I first ran my review on Thursday morning, it was before Amanda Knox wrote a lengthy Twitter thread about the film. Knox’s thread is one that needs to be read by everyone that is considering watching this film. It’s not a good look for McCarthy, Damon, or anyone involved in the film to be honest. Filmmakers let alone an Oscar winner like McCarthy should know better! How do you go forward with making a film like this and not even offer financial compensation? If you ask me, it’s the death knell for any awards campaign for Stillwater, Oscars or otherwise.

DIRECTOR: Tom McCarthy
SCREENWRITERS: Tom McCarthy & Marcus Hinchey and Thomas Bidegain & Noé Debré
CAST: Matt Damon, Abigail Breslin, Camille Cottin, Lilou Siauvaud, Idir Azougli

Focus Features releases Stillwater in theaters on July 30, 2021.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.