‘Stillwater’ is a crime drama directed by Tom McCarthy and starring Matt Damon as Bill Baker, an average working-class American from Stillwater, Oklahoma, who faces numerous challenges to clear his daughter Allison’s name from a murder. load. Allison, who studies in Marseille, France, has been arrested on suspicion of murdering her friend Lina.
Bill struggles to exonerate his daughter in a faraway land, with cultural differences and no knowledge of the language or the legal system. The film’s premise is one that sounds like a sensational headline. However, is that really the case? Is ‘Stillwater’ inspired by real events or true stories? We decided to investigate the matter, and here’s everything we learned about the inspiration behind the film.
Is Stillwater based on a true story?
‘Stillwater’ is partly based on a true story. Speaking in an interview with The OC Register, director Tom McCarthy said the film is very loosely based on Amanda Knox’s story. However, McCarthy has insisted that the film bears little to no resemblance to Amanda’s story outside of the premise. “I was captivated by that case, and there was (some) inspiration, but if you put too much emphasis on that, it’s not right. This is clearly a very different scenario,” McCarthy said in the interview.
Likewise, in a separate interview, the director revealed that he started working on the film’s story almost a decade ago. While Amanda’s story was enamored with McCarthy, he didn’t want to tackle a true crime story and instead developed a fictional story with a father-daughter relationship at its core.
The aforementioned Amanda Knox is from Seattle, Washington, and was a linguistics student at the University of Washington. At the age of 20 she studied for a year in Perugia, Italy. There she shared an apartment with Meredith Kercher, an exchange student from England (and two Italian trainee lawyers). In November 2007, Kercher’s corpse was found on the floor of her bedroom, and Knox was arrested on suspicion of murder. Knox was initially convicted of the crime, but was later released in 2011 and fully acquitted in 2015.
The main body of the film is partially similar to Amanda’s story, but also includes some notable changes. First, in the film, there is a romantic angle between Allison and her roommate, who is murdered. Allison is from Stillwater, Oklahoma, and studies in Marseille, France, a stark departure from Amanda’s background. The film’s focus on the father-daughter relationship serves as the soul of the story, and the rugged father’s character adds a very different perspective to the daughter’s plight. The film delves heavily into Oklahoma culture which gives the story a unique voice.
The director also makes some poignant statements about the current political climate through the film, exploring the concept of nationalism while simultaneously reversing the American heroic trope often seen in Hollywood movies. “Globally, there has been a move toward nationalism, which I think some people are calling the Trump administration and a few (of) other governments around the world right now that are quite prominent, a few (of) others. countries specifically, and the idea of what that means globally,” McCarthy said, explaining the film’s political theme while speaking to Deadline.
Therefore, all things considered, it’s safe to say that the film’s story is more fictional than based on a true story. While the story’s genesis is rooted in a real-life incident, the film also instills a sense of realism through its exploration of a father-daughter relationship, Oklahoma culture, and the current socio-political climate. These elements help the film create its own identity and make it deviate cinematically, emotionally and morally from the real incident upon which it was loosely inspired.
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