<Review by: Sailesh Ghelani>
Directed by Jeff Nichols. Starring Matthew McConaughey, Tye Sheridan, Jacob Lofland, Reese Witherspoon, Sarah Paulson, Ray McKinnon, Sam Shepard, Michael Shannon, Paul Sparks, Joe Don Baker
When you watch Mud you’re in for a treat because there’s no CGI to distract you, no bombs exploding, no super heroes flying around ‘trying to be Iron Man’ and loads of good, subtle emotion and deep, nuanced performances.
All the reviews online tell you the story of this film and in my opinion that’s just darn bad of them, ‘cause it’s the story that is everything in this movie. And it unfolds at it’s own pace, gradually revealing all the characters in the film, their desires and fears, their heroism and cowardice, their flaws and shining moments.
America’s rural South is the backdrop against the Mississippi river. There’s an abandoned little island close by where young teen friends Ellis (Tye Sheridan) and ‘Neckbone’ (Jacob Lofland) discover a motorboat that’s been washed up in a flood and got stuck in a tree. But they can’t claim it as their treasure since a man called Mud (Matthew McConaughey) is living there like a vagrant. The reason: love and murder.
Shuttling back and forth between their homes on the river and their new island friend, the boys endeavour to help him get the boat back in operation and be with Mud’s ladylove Juniper (Reese Witherspoon) who seems a bit reluctant.
14-year-old Ellis is dealing with the separation of his parents, the possible loss of his way of life helping his dad (Ray McKinnon) sell fish they’ve caught from the river since his mom (Sarah Paulson) plans to leave and take her inherited property down after her departure. Mud’s arrival and tales of love and adventure keep Ellis’s candle of hope about love burning to the point that he fights for a girl and makes her his girlfriend only later to discover that life and love are cruel creatures.
What’s wonderful about Mud that it isn’t a story you’ve seen before. It unfolds at a delightfully real and pleasurable pace and each moment of emotion is captured brilliantly by writer/director Jeff Nichols (Take Shelter, Shotgun Stories).
Young Tye Sheridan is actually the star of this movie. His brooding yet sexy eyes, his intensity and angst, his passion are conveyed with so much earnestness and longing that this young boy transfixes you completely. Jacob Lofland who infuses humour and balance into their relationship plays Ellis’s friend Neckbone wonderfully.
A lot has been said about McConaughey’s metamorphoses into a serious actor and it is all-true. Witherspoon doesn’t have a large role in Mud but she reveals plenty about her character in the moments she has on screen. All the supporting cast makes Mud a richer film.
Mud has been called a Huckleberry Finn-like tale and it is indeed a coming-of-age story. I found it to be far better than another film that is comparable – The Place Beyond The Pines, which I thought was over-involved and way too long.
If you ‘read between the lines’ then you’ll also find a message about how some relationships and some women can be bad for you while others can be your salvation.
Go and watch Mud and bask in the brilliance, the quaint but unique story, and the rock solid performance by cute actor Tye Sheridan. He’ll grow up to be quite a lady killer and actor to boot.