Two young boys encounter a fugitive and form a pact to help him evade the bounty hunters on his trail and to reunite him with his true love.
Director: Jeff Nichols
After my favorite film of 2011, Take Shelter, wirter/director Jeff Nichols has been on the top of my watch list. Now his next film is finally out, and it is additionally the first real base and launching pad for what I’ve heard called the Renaissance of Matthew McConaughey. McConaughey seems to have moved past his cheap rom/com days and has been doing some deeper, more dramatic roles since the start of this decade. To be cast in the main male role following Michael Shannon‘s part in Take Shelter is a huge step towards some real, award winning potential roles.
But don’t worry, he still finds a way to take his shirt off.
In Mud, two fourteen year old friends in Arkansas, Ellis [Sheridan] and Neckbone [Lofland], head out to a small island where they hear a boat rests up in a tree, a perfect getaway hide-out. They find out, however, that they weren’t the first ones to find this hide-out. A strange homeless man who calls himself Mud [McConaughey], is living on the small island while he waits for his girlfriend. He promises them the boat in return for some food, and the boys oblige, eventually befriending the man. While driving home the morning after seeing Mud, Ellis and his mom are stopped by the police, who are asking whether or not people have seen a criminal who’s been spotted in the area: Mud.
The film is a soft, down-to-earth production with a basic color palette, soundtrack, and cinematography, sometimes reminiscent of classic Terrence Malick style. The story is a simple one as well. Where the film finds its intrigue and interest are the performances and characters. McConaughey gives the most convincing performance I’ve ever seen from him, giving real character to a role that on paper sounds pretty small. Sherridan is technically your leading man, coming fresh off of his premiere in Malick’s Tree of Life. He seems to have a lot of promise, and he’s someone we should all keep an eye on for potential upcoming stardom.
Mud follows some classic dramatic film arcs of slowly revealing information so the viewer learns along with the protagonist, and all characters, from our fourteen year old Ellis, our thirty-something year old Mud, and even old Tom Blankenship [Sam Shepard], have things to learn from each other. The whole plot revolves around Mud: Ellis and Neckbone working with him to put together the boat in the tree so Mud and his girl can ride off to freedom together, and a gang of guys looking for vengeance for Mud’s past actions. We know just enough about Mud to be able to form our own opinions of him, and piece by piece we find out the truth as all the story lines come together.
3/4 – Jeff Nichols follows up the critically acclaimed Take Shelter with another drama in the southern U.S., with similar basic, thoughtful production and performance driven content. Mud doesn’t break any molds, but succeeds in filling this one.