Review “Stillwater” Intriguing mystery, surprise ending

I was excited when I got the invitation to view this movie. I like Tyler Ritter and his part in the film, made me curious about this suspense. I also like a good mystery. Not only was I not disappointed but it was much more than I expected with excellent acting, great direction by Nino Aldo and an ending that is compelling while leaving viewers with more mysteries.

The story by this independent writer is simple enough. Six high school friends head to a remote wilderness location for a reunion, led by Dawson (Tyler Ritter) who is in the process of getting a divorce. He is joined by his best friend, Willie (Paul Elia), a podiatrist who has been sued for the death of a patient. Nino Aldi, also the director, plays Richie who just left the Army from a tour in the Middle East. Travis Quentin Young plays family man Jack, Ryan Vincent is Cooper who is an actor and Eric Michael Roy is Leech, a writer.

Besides the six friends, a trio of others join the group, The Wizard (Mike Foy) known for his hallucinogenic drugs. He brings along two female friends, Fauna (Carlena Britch) and Vera (Georgie Guinane). The three are invited by Leech, which brings the first sign of tension among the group but the three are allowed to stay. The women are more than welcome and Wizard’s drugs make him useful to the party. All are ready to relax and hang with their friends until a deadly accident happens leading to suspicion and fighting among the group. Soon, no one knows who to trust. No one trusts each other and the tight knit bonds between the friends come unraveled as secrets emerge while the outsiders, The Wizard and the two women struggle to convince the others of their innocence.

One of the best elements of this story is that it isn’t told from the viewpoint of the character you would expect and that part lends itself to maintaining the intrigue right until the end of the movie. Instead of Dawson, who seems like he’s the leader of the group, the story is presented from the point of view of Willie the podiatrist, his best friend. Willie is instrumental in diagnosing a death among the group after the wild party. With only his viewpoint to lead the story, it leads to questions and builds the tension of the film. Ultimately, it brings about the question of how accurate his perceptions are and how accurate the narrative is.

While there is some stiffness in the acting at the beginning of the film, the direction of the film is what helps build the tension and the intrigue. There are many movies set in the woods. Most are predictable in some way. While some elements of the story can be guessed, what makes this different is the direction, leading the viewer to question the narrative and leaving the ending a complete surprise. The writers, Jay Ostrowski, Joseph Rein, and Nino Aldi, are creative in the use of perspective to guide the viewer to wonder if the true story has been told.

The actors do a solid job with their parts, particularly Tyler Ritter as Dawson, portraying multiple moods to his character and instilling doubt in his actions. Paul Elia does equally well, creating authenticity to his character’s actions, again leaving the viewer to wonder what the truth is in every move of Willie. Even though he is directing, Nino Aldi is believable as Richie, his pain realistic and the character one of the highlights of the film. Of the group of friends, the action and emotions keep you engaged in the intrigue and in the secrets unfolding. Mike Foy as The Wizard, Carlena Britch as Fauna, and Georgie Guinane as Vera add to the drama and their acting help the pacing and tension of the film.

I also liked how well the filmmakers used the area they filmed in. Not only was it beautiful scenery but the cinematography utilized every part of the outside set. The inside set was streamlined and simple, the focus of the movie the story between the friends and the action between them.

One of the only small issues I have with the film is the acting of the actors used for the police detectives. Both are stiff in their acting and don’t feel authentic. While the rest of the film is well shot and acted, these parts are not as well done and lose some of the tension from the overall film. Despite this, the acting from Paul Elia helps alleviate this and the surprise of the ending is worth the wait.

Overall, the film was intriguing, well acted and if you like movies with mystery and a surprise ending, this will keep you engaged. The twist on the perspective was novel and helped keep me guessing until the final moment of the movie. I look forward to seeing more from this group of filmmakers.

Rating: 4 cameras out of 5.
Stillwater is available on Amazon, iTunes, Google play, and Blu-ray are available at the website
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