Writer/director Tom McCarthy’s forte is stories about people who are in some way out of place. He’s given us such memorable indies as The Station Agent, Win Win, The Visitor, and Best Picture Oscar-winner Spotlight. (He also did the execrable The Cobbler, but we all have our off days.)
In his latest, a redneck oil-rigger (Matt Damon) from the title Oklahoma town travels to Marseilles, where his daughter (Abigail Breslin) is serving a prison sentence for a murder she did not commit. (It’s vaguely inspired by the infamous Amanda Knox case.) Bill immediately runs into cultural and attitudinal barriers and realizes he must lower his guard and connect with people unlike himself (i.e., almost everyone) if he is to find the true killer.
While he carries on his amateur investigation, he develops a touching, platonic relationship with a neighbor (Camille Cottin) and her young daughter, representing a chance for a new life.
Damon shines by disappearing into his difficult character, imbuing him with compassion and humanity, quite a feat
considering the man’s near total lack of expression.
This highly nuanced, thought-provoking movie contradicts preconceptions. On the downside, it’s a tad overlong and the ending is obvious and disappointing, But all in all a mesmerizing, knotty character study. (139 min)