Abigail Breslin plays an American student falsely imprisoned for murder in Marseille, France, in "Stillwater." File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo
LOS ANGELES, July 28 (UPI) -- Abigail Breslin, who stars in the film Stillwater, opening Friday, said the film explores how people react when faced with a crisis. Breslin plays an American college student serving a prison term in Marseille, France, for a murder she did not commit.
"I think we never know how we're going to react to challenges in life until we're faced with them," Breslin told UPI in a Zoom interview. "She just never imagined that it would go this far and that this would end up being the majority of her youth."
Though reminiscent of the real-life case of Amanda Knox, Stillwater is a fictional story. Knox was acquitted after first serving four years in an Italian prison for the murder of her roommate.
Allison Baker (Breslin) was attending college in Marseille when she found her roommate, Lina, murdered in their shared apartment. Stillwater begins as Allison is five years into a nine-year sentence.
The 25-year-old Breslin never attended college. However, she said she could put herself in Allison's shoes as a young woman from Stillwater, Okla., overwhelmed by circumstances.
"When we're in our later teens or early 20s, we all want to be independent and broaden our horizons," Breslin said. "It's tragic because so many people in their college years make mistakes, but this is certainly the most severe end of those mistakes."
Allison and Lina were girlfriends, so Allison is mourning her lost love, as well as her own circumstances. Breslin said she imagined Lina and Allison's relationship before the events of the film, including the length of their relationship.
Allison's father Bill (Matt Damon) begins to investigate new leads, hoping to reopen the case and free his daughter. Stillwater filmed Allison's scenes and Bill's visits in the Baumettes Penitentiary in Marseille.
"That was definitely really interesting and really helpful to film there and see what my day-to-day life would be like," Breslin said. "[It was] very upsetting to be in there, for sure."
Before her trial, Allison had a rocky relationship with her father. Bill's construction and disaster clean-up job required him to travel a lot. He also is a recovering alcoholic.
Bill stays in Marseille with a single mother, Virginie (Camille Cottin), and her daughter, Maya (Lilou Siauvaud). Allison does receive a one-day prison furlough during which she sees Bill being a father figure to Maya.
"It's definitely a little bit of a sadness that she feels when she sees him kind of living out what she feels should have been their relationship and their bond," Breslin said.
Breslin had been acting for seven years when she played the title role in 2006's Little Miss Sunshine. At age 9, Breslin played talent show contestant Olive in the Oscar-winning film.
In the ensuing decade and one-half, Breslin played teenaged roles in The Call, Maggie and TV's Scream Queens. The two Zombieland films show Breslin at 13 and 23.
Still, Breslin said people remember Little Miss Sunshine. The actress said she remains grateful to the film for paving the way for future roles.
"I feel so lucky that it touched so many people," Breslin said. "It definitely was a huge thing for me because it gave me a lot of opportunities."