FNE at Cannes 2021: Out of Competition: Stillwater

    Stillwater by Tom McCarthy Stillwater by Tom McCarthy copyright: 2021 Focus Features, LLC

    CANNES: Todd McCarthy’s Stillwater starring Cannes favourite Matt Damon screens Out of Competition this year in Cannes. Damon is a frequent visitor to Cannes as the star of films in the official programme and this year will be his fifth time on the Cannes red carpet.

    The film follows an American oil-rig rough neck from Oklahoma, Bill Baker played by Matt Damon, who travels to the southern French city of Marseille to visit his estranged daughter Allison, played by Abigail Breslin, who is in prison for a murder she claims she did not commit.

    Despite being confronted with language barriers, cultural differences, and a complicated legal system, Bill nonetheless is determined to get his daughter out of prison. He clearly feels a lot of guilt and shame over his relationship with his daughter. While in Marseille, he develops a friendship with a local woman Virginie, played by Camile Cottin, and her 9-year-old daughter Maya played by Lilou Siauvaud.  It is really a film about family relationships.

    Speaking at the press conference director Todd McCarthy said, “It’s a movie about how Americans are seen from abroad. It deals with what we perceive America to be today and it’s personified by Bill Baker the main character, when he comes to visit his daughter in Marseille in France. Our country has gone through a lot of turmoil lately. It was very helpful for me to go through that with two great French writers for the script of this film. Four writers get screenwriters credit for the film, Tom McCarthy, Marcus Hinchey, Thomas Bidegain and Noé Debré."

    Matt Damon speaking about Lilou Siauvaud who played the daughter of Virginie said she was the Meryl Streep of nine year olds. “She gave something different every time in every scene and it was just something that she knew how to do intuitively.”

    “It’s a film about the father daughter relationship and I think that this is something that any parent can relate to. It is also about a very specific man from a very specific place in America. When he gets to Marseille he is very much out of his element, he doesn’t understand where he’s at most of the time.”

    Matt Damon and Todd McCarthy visited Oklahoma and spent a lot of time there in preparation for the film. Damon said “Rough necks are in the oil business. This is where Bill Baker is from and there’s a lot of empathy for him in the film. I spent a lot of time in Oklahoma to build the character. Rough necks in Texas and Oklahoma have a very specific culture. They are very strong guys. They lift heavy things for their work. They invited us into their homes and they would bring out a guitar and sing gospel songs.”

    Damon said the film team spent several months in Marseille. “I loved Marseille,” he said “It's not like any other place I’ve been. I thought to myself that if I was a young person and living in France this is the city where I would want to be.”

    About his return to Cannes for the July 2021 edition of the festival after the 2020 edition being cancelled due to COVID Damon said, “It’s great being in Cannes and watching the film with 1000 other people was such a great experience after watching everything on TV for two years.”


    Stillwater (USA)
    Directed by Tom McCarthy
    Screenwriters: Tom McCarthy, Marcus Hinchey, Thomas Bidegain, Noé Debré

    Cast: Matt Damon, Abigail Breslin, Camille Cottin, Lilou Siauvaud, Idir Azougli, Deanna Dunagan, Anne Le Ny, Moussa Maaskri, Naidra Ayadi, Nassiriat Mohamed, Mahia Zrouki