Amazon Review By Paul Allaer on May 4, 2013
“Mud” (2012 release; 130 min.) is the newest film from writer-director Jeff Nichols, who just last year brought us the excellent “Take Shelter” thriller (starring Jessica Chastain). As the movie opens, we get to know two young boys, 14 yr. old Ellis (played by Tye Sheridan) and his best friend Neckbone (played by Jacob Lofland), in a small boat on the Mississippi river, on their way to an island where they have found something incredible: a boat that somehow ended up high in a tree. The boys think the boat is abandoned and want to make it their playground, only to find out that someone is living in the boat: Mud (played by Matthew McConaughey). Mud is a refuge of the law for killing a man who got involved with Mud’s on-again, off-again girlfriend Juniper (played by Reese Witherspoon). Mud gains the trust of the boys and convinces them to assist him in getting the boat lowered from the tree. We also get to know Ellis’ family, as his mom and dad are going through tough times and are contemplating divorcing. This frightens Ellis as it may lead to having to move away from his beloved house on the river. At this point we are not even half-way through the movie. Is Mud really who he claims to be? Will the boat be lowered from the tree? Do Mud and Juniper find true love? Will Ellis find a way to save his house on the river? To tell you more would ruin your viewing experience, you’ll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.
Several comments: this movie feels like a tour-de-force from Jeff Nichols. Even though “Take Shelter” was itself quite good, “Mud” feels like a quantum leap forward, both in the writing and the directing. The Mississippi river and surrounding Arkansas landscapes play a huge role in the movie, and at time it all feels quite surreal, or at least there is a sense of magic-realism. McConaughey plays another great role (although for me not quite as career-defining as his role in last year’s “Killer Joe”). But as much as I like McConaughey, the film is stolen by young Tye Sheridan, who acts and has a screen presence far greater than you might expect. In that sense, and as the movie ultimately is more about Ellis than it is about Mud, the movie could’ve just as easily have been called “Ellis”. Jacob Lofland in the role of Ellis’ friend is great as well. The two boys take up a huge amount of screen time, and hence this movie reminded me of that great movie “Stand By Me” from the mid-80s, starring a then young and unknown River Phoenix. Sheridan surely looks to have the talent and the chops to build a long and rewarding acting career.
This movie premiered at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival, to generally great acclaim, and for the life of me I do not understand why it has taken almost a year to get the movie finally released in US theatres. The screeing I saw this at this weekend here at my local art-house theatre in Cincinnati was very nicely packed, I’m happy to say. Bottom line, if you are in the mood for a top quality indie movie that is miles away from the standard Hollywood fare, you cannot go wrong with this. “Mud” is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!