Written and directed by Jeff Nichols
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Tye Sheridan, Jacob Lofland, Michael Shannon
Neckbone and Ellis are 14 year olds living in Arkansas. Ellis lives in a makeshift houseboat, with his mother, who is always in her dressing gown and his father who makes a living trapping rabbits and sells them to local people. Neckbone lives with his Uncle Galen, who plays guitar and fishes for pearls to woo young ladies. The boys have a dirt-bike and a boat and escape from their daily lives by exploring the Mississippi delta, which is where they find Mud (Matthew McConaughey), a man on the run, living in a boat in a tree. Mud describes to the boys how he came to find himself a fugitive, a tale which captures the imagination of young romantic Ellis, so he and Neckbone agree to start helping him escape from Arkansas.
Peppered with elements of Huckleberry Finn, Night of the Hunter, Stand by Me and even Great Expectations, there is a somewhat fairy-tale element to Mud. What could have been the story of a murderer on the run that we have all heard before takes on a magical quality when seen through the eyes of a romantic 14 year-old. Alongside the tale of the boys helping an escaped convict, Ellis is coping with the break-up of his parents’ marriage and loss of his childhood home, meaning he finds himself clinging to tales of love and loyalty. Ellis wants to be the knight in shining armour for the women in his life, and wants to reject his father’s assertions that women can’t be trusted and that love can’t last, so he fights to help love thrive.
Matthew McConaughey does away with his usual show-boating (although does manage a few shirtless scenes) to give a very reserved performance in the title role. The biggest revelation comes in the form of Tye Sheridan, who is both soulful, romantic and brimming with teenage angst in the role of Ellis. His performance is one that is sure to lead to an exciting future career.
Mud is a film that lets the characters drive the story for the most part, letting Ellis’ more soulful moments shine in this old-fashioned feeling coming of age tale.
4 out of 5