"Mud" Movie Review

“Mud” Movie Review

“it’s a hell of a thing ain’t it? A hell of a thing.”

Trying to summarize a movie like “Mud” into a single short review is definitely tricky. The movie just has so many layers, so many emotions in play that as soon as it ended, I knew I needed to see it again. It’s easy to say, “Mud” is the best movie of the year so far and an early contender for my end of year top 10 list.

“Mud” follows the story of Ellis, a young Arkansas boy living with his somewhat poor parents. His mother in father fight constantly and Ellis most often seeks refuge with his best friend Neckbone (Jacob Lofland). One day after the two boys discover a boat stuck in a tree, they encounter Mud, played by the astounding Mathew McConaughey. Mud has sought shelter in the boat and makes a deal with the two boys to bring him food in exchange for the boat once he departs. Things become complicated quickly when it is revealed that Mud is on the run from the law and trying to meet up with his life long girlfriend Juniper (Reese Witherspoon).

To start with, “Mud” feels like modern folklore; Like a story we heard long ago as children. The characters all feel so familiar and confident it’s hard to believe they aren’t based off some source material. Like the best folklore, the film creates a world all it’s own. Set in modern day Arkansas, the film almost feels like it takes a few steps back to simpler times.

Jeff Nichols continues to delve into the rarely viewed heart of America. His style reminds me of Terrence Malick’s early work, though less pretentious. The time and places are real, but they have a fantastical sense of atmosphere about them. “Mud” always feels intimate but never intrusive, insightful but never exploitive. The script is constantly moving forward without ever feeling rushed. Characters are distinct, particularly Michael Shannon as Neckbone’s often insightful Uncle Galen. Sam Shepard also gives a particularly great performance, but this movie feels like his sort of comfort zone. Everything about the movie just ends up working so well that it’s hard to pick out any major faults.

If I had one complaint, it would be the quick-paced love story between Ellis and a girl from his town. It starts off as a nice sentiment, and plays well with the overall themes of love, loss and letting go, but it felt resolved much too quickly and the female character just seemed bitter.

Tye Sheridan really owns the role of Ellis. Having seen him play in the “Tree of Life” 2 years ago, we caught glimpses of a fresh young actor. “Mud” takes everything Sheridan did well in “Tree of Life” and makes it even stronger. He has such a range rarely seen in young actors these days. My jaw dropped in a couple of scenes, particularly in two very strong scenes towards the end of the film where McConaughey and Sheridan have some truly heartfelt moments without ever falling into melodrama.

Nichols’ first two films, “Shotgun Stories” and “Take Shelter” are undeniably well-crafted independent drama films. With “Mud”, Nichols continues his streak of insightful American folktales while also bringing a much more accessible story to audiences. This is a film I would recommend to my ten year-old cousin and my eighty-five year-old grandmother. It really just has that broad of an appeal.

I could probably continue on for a while, giving various reasons of why Mud is so outstanding but instead I will just end things here and firmly say, if you want to see a movie in theaters, “Mud” is undoubtedly the one for everyone to go see!

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