Director: Jeff Nichols
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Tye Sheridan, Jacob Lofland, Reese Witherspoon
Matthew McConaughey appears to be on a roll in regards to choosing his roles. With this Jeff Nichols follow-up to the fantastic Take Shelter, McConaughey is now the lead (or at least the co-lead) in a film that happens to be my favorite of the year so far (I realize that’s not saying a whole lot since this year has been crap so far, but I swear this movies is awesome).
Mud is centered around a teenage boy named Ellis. He and his friend Neckbone travel to an island to discover a shipwrecked boat they want to work on to keep for themselves. What they do not expect to find is a man wanted for murder living on the island. This man, even though he’s a murderer, seems like a fairly nice guy and the two adolescents start to help him by bringing him food and helping him avoid the police. Of course the film becomes a little bit more complicated than the basic plot I’ve laid out.
It turns out this film is really about finding a way to believe in love, no matter how bleak things get or how badly the opposite sexes can tend to treat each other. As Ellis goes through some difficulties with his personal life; a pending divorce of his parents, his first girlfriend breaking his heart, and, well… helping the stranger he met on an island who’s wanted for murder.
All of the plot points combine to provide the audience with a poignant, yet entertaining film that believes in something. It’s a film that seems cynical on the surface but has so many moments where the opposite is proven, where the good shines through in the characters and where hope is found.
The film accomplishes these goals not just through the tight telling of the story, but also with some excellent performances. The kid actor, Tye Sheridan, is great as Ellis, especially for a young actor in a film that relies quite heavily on such a young character. If the audience doesn’t buy this character, the movie just flat out does not work. It’s a character that remains consistent and believable throughout the story, as he gradually loses trust in people and struggles to keep his faith in the existence of love.
McConaughey is exceptional as the title character, Mud (yes that’s the guy’s name, or at least what he tells people to call him). There’s a little bit of your typical McConaughey cockiness that comes through in the character, but it works well for a person who is, by many appearances, very deceitful. There’s also a sense of innocence in Mud, or at least as much innocence as one could expect for a murderer. His relationship that is developed with Ellis is one that turns out to be very interesting and he could be seen as the guy that Ellis will eventually turn into.
A few other things to mention would be the Michael Shannon appearance. Every time Michael Shannon is in something that thing is automatically made better than it would have been without him. There’s also a quite important role from Reese Witherspoon in this film as Mud’s love interest. The other child actor in this movie serves as somewhat of a comic relief, and the young actor, Jacob Lofland, does a really nice job.
This is movie that gets just about everything right. It’s thrilling. It’s smart. It’s funny. It’s sad. It’s an extremely well-made film that can be enjoyed by general audiences and cinephiles at the same time. Jeff Nichols created a very nice follow-up to his previous masterpiece.
My Rating: 4 out of 5