I saw Tom McCarthy‘s Stillwater last night, and except for the “wait, what the fuck just happened?” section during the last 25 or so minutes it’s not half bad.

It’s longish (140 minutes) but not in a punishing way, plus unusual and complex and definitely, absolutely not a “Liam Neeson goes to France to crack heads and get his daughter out of prison” film.

All the critics have said that it’s four or five flicks in one — a criminal investigation thing, a fish-out-of-water thing (muttering, slow-on-the-pickup dad in Marseilles), a family relationship thing, a romantic relationship film, a fatalistic character piece.

But you know what? I liked that it has its finger in several pies and that it’s all over the map. French films follow this meandering path all the time…a little this, a little that, a detour, a change-up, a sudden acceleration followed by a slowdown, a little romance, something else unexpected happens, etc.

What Stillwater is, basically, is a film that says (a) if you’ve fucked up before, you’ll probably fuck up again because some people are just fuck-ups or are simply lacking sufficient brain cells to figure stuff out and do things right, and (b) life is fucking brutal, man.

It’s about Bill Baker (Matt Damon), a somber-mannered, goateed, cap-wearing, flirting-with-fat, not-especially-brilliant bumblefuck dad from Oklahoma, visiting Marseilles for the eighth or ninth time to visit his imprisoned daughter (Abigail Breslin), who’s serving nine years for the murder of her girlfriend. Only this time Bill becomes involved in a long-range effort to clear her name after (possibly) exculpatory evidence comes to light.

He decides to move full-time to Marseilles, and in so doing gets platonically involved with Virginie (Camille Cottin), a theatre actress, and her young daughter Maya (Lilou Siauvaud). And then romance seeps in.

Here’s a Stillwater discussion I had this morning with a friend…

HE: Stillwater is definitely a decent film. Four or stories or movies in one. Then it takes a crazy-ass turn near the end and there’s no trusting it. But it has a good meditative ending on a front porch.

Friendo: Oh, bummer.

HE: It’s not a bummer — it just has a weird third act or final half-hour. It’s worth seeing. It’s a real middle-class movie about human beings. It’s curious and atypical and well acted.

Friendo: So did the daughter do it or what?

HE: My impression was that even though fortune eventually smiles, she might have actually [redacted]. Maybe. Plus Damon’s bumblefuck is a tough guy to hang with and identify with and gradually come to like. Always with the fucking hat and the short-sleeved plaid shirt, always with the fucking goatee, always with the yokel accent, always swallowing his words and vowels. And a Trump voter on top of everything else.

Friendo: Sounds kind of like a ’70s or ’80s movie.

HE: It is, and it’s very nice to see a complex, character-driven thing in an AMC gladiator arena. Stillwater is like a French movie…tedious stuff, surprising stuff…this happens, bad things happen, this or that emotion pops through, then it’s back to an investigation, then it’s back to a family thing, then the cops come and then they leave.