Mud: Rated “PG-13“ (129 Minutes)
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Tye Sheridan, Jacob Lofland, Michael Shannon
Directed by: Jeff Nichols
Every once in a while we get to see a film that is completely character-driven, where the actors provide us with such incredibly indelible performances that it makes us forget that sometimes these very same actors (McConaughey) appear in slick, formulistic, Hollywoodland nonsense. Well, whenever that happens, we think that we have the greatest job ever. Mud is such a film.
Ostensibly, this film is an about a pair of young lads from Arkansas who are in middle school. One night the boys sneak out to head for an island in the Mississippi river to check on “their” boat, that was apparently washed up ontop the island during a storm and got itself lodged in a tree. The boys, Ellis (Sheridan) and Neckbone (Lofland), soon discover that a man who says his name is Mud (McConaughey) is hiding out on an island. Mud says he can’t leave because he is waiting for someone.
Slowly, over the course of a few days, the boys learn more about Mud — who has nails in the heels of his shoes to ward off evil, wears a magic shirt, and has tattoos that protect him — spins a number of fantastic yarns about how he killed a man in Texas to protect his lady love and how and vengeful bounty hunters are now coming to get him. He goes on to claim that he is planning to meet and escape with his girlfriend, Juniper, who is the love of his life. He says that she is waiting for him in town. Skeptical but intrigued, Ellis and Neckbone (isn’t that the coolest nickname ever?) agree to help him. Needless to say it isn’t long until Mud’s stories come true and their small town is besieged by not only a beautiful girl but with a number of bounty hunters as well.
Along the way, both Neckbone and Ellis come to learn a thing or three about being young men, love, relationships, and how the world at large really works. And again, we have to say that after watching McConaughey slide his way through fluff like Failure to Launch or How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days and then see him take on a roll like Mud and get so deep into it that it becomes a part of him. Further, Sheridan and Lofland turn in outstanding performances for a couple of kids. Plus it is always great to see Witherspoon in a dramatic role. Yep, this one’s a keeper. Go out and see it soon.
Robert J. Sodaro has been reviewing films for some 30 years. During that time, his movie reviews and articles have appeared in numerous print publications, as well as on the web. Subscribe to receive regular articles and movie reviews.