Matt Damon's new movie Stillwater, inspired by the case of Amanda Knox, causing ripples of controversy
Indie film reviewer Charlie Hughes gives his verdict on Matt Damon's controversial new movie Stillwater, inspired by the case of Amanda Knox...
The infamous case of Amanda Knox, an American student who was convicted and later acquitted of the murder of her roommate, is the acknowledged inspiration for Stillwater, the new film by Spotlight director Tom McCarthy.
The blurry relationship between McCarthy's fictional story and the real-life events has caused controversy, but the film itself has broad, crowd-pleasing appeal.
McCarthy and co-screenwriters Noé Debré and Thomas Bidegain transpose the action from Perugia in Italy to Marseille in France.
Interestingly, Stillwater is told not from the perspective of Allison (the Amanda Knox figure, played by Abigail Breslin) but of her father Bill (Matt Damon), an Oklahoman construction worker who takes matters into his own hands to prove his daughter's innocence.
When Bill meets French theatre actress Virginie (Camille Cottin), who helps with his investigation, the film shifts gears into romantic drama and then into thriller.
Knox herself has branded Stillwater as "irresponsible", criticising McCarthy and Damon for creating a narrative that's damaging to her and her family.
Indeed, it's hard to argue with her. Without giving away spoilers, the film's third act manipulates reality in a way that leaves the audience confused as to what really happened and if Knox was guilty or not.
However, if you take Stillwater entirely on its own terms, you'll find a very confident film with subversive ideas about family and loyalty.
Damon is consistently engaging as Bill. He plays the role with emotional restraint but generates enough empathy to keep the audience hooked throughout the 140-minute runtime.
He also carries the film even through its tonally mishandled moments, which is testament to his considerable star power.
It may not be Spotlight, but Stillwater is a frequently gripping and ultimately moving story of a man torn between two families and two cultures.
It's just a shame the filmmakers chose not to distance it from reality. As Knox contended in an interview with Variety: "If you want to fictionalise a story, really fictionalise it".
Rating: 3 out of 5