Warning: light spoilers for Stillwater are in play. If you haven’t seen the film yet, feel free to check out some of the other news on the film that CinemaBlend has to offer.
For all of the emotional turmoil that Abigail Breslin had to navigate in co-writer/director Tom McCarthy’s Stillwater, there was one scene in particular that felt “intimidating” and “scary.” Surprisingly, it wasn’t any of the prison heart-to-hearts with co-star/on screen father Matt Damon, though those were still pretty intense. Instead, Ms. Breslin’s big moment comes from a conversation with co-star Camille Cottin, which takes place entirely in French.
As I spoke with her during the Stillwater press day, promoting the film’s opening that took place last weekend, I asked whether or not she had experience with the French language before making the film. The reason behind that questioning was a scene where Abigail Breslin gets to speak to French actor Camille Cottin, with their dialogue exclusively being spoken in that dialect. Surprisingly, Abigail didn’t have any previous studies in French, but prepared hard for this crucial scene:
I actually just learned it for the film. I spent a long time working with a tutor named Julie out in Marseilles. It was definitely intimidating to do that, all in front of a French crew, and Camille, so it was a little bit scary.
In a rare Stillwater moment where the incarcerated Allison Baker (Abigail Breslin) is allowed out of prison on a day pass, she gets to reunite with her father Bill (Matt Damon). As Bill has developed a relationship with Virginie (Camille Cottin) and become a father figure to her daughter Maya (Lilou Siauvaud), Allison sees the second chance her father has carved out for himself, and finds herself happy for him. But in the conversation she has with Virginie, Allison can’t help but feel her family is cursed in some small way.
Studying the French language wasn’t the only intense Stillwater prep that Abigail Breslin did. For background on the character of Allison, who maintains her innocence and believes herself falsely imprisoned, Breslin researched real life cases of that same sort. The big takeaway that she gained from that portion of her preparation was that in those particular cases, the prisoner tends to give up more easily and accept their fate.
Even through some of the moments where father and daughter meet in a visitation cell in prison, Stillwater sees further moments of Abigail Breslin’s mastery of the French language. One special visit leads to a moment where Breslin’s Allison is outraged by her father, which leads her to cut their conversation short. Demanding a guard escort her back to her cell, she speaks in a language that Bill has only started to grasp. It’s a moment of disconnection that shocks, as up until that point, the wounds between the Baker family seemed to be mending.
Stillwater is a family drama filled with suspense, as the ups and downs of each moment could undo the efforts to reconcile with the past and build a better future. While more of the focus is centered on Matt Damon’s absentee father trying to make things right, the trajectory of Abigail Breslin’s Allison parallels those efforts with a sense of making peace with the way things are. The contrast between the two can be currently seen in Tom McCarthy’s Stillwater, which is currently showing in theaters.