The minute Jeff Nichol’s third film Mud came on the screen, I can honestly say I was emotionally invested from beginning to end. This film takes you on a journey and doesn’t let up until you’re leaving the theater smiling, thanking the gods that you sat down and watched this beautiful film.
Mud follows two teenage boys, Ellis (Tye Sheridan) and Neckbone (Jacob Lofland), in the backwoods of Arkansas on the Mississippi as they sneak onto their hidden motorboat and head out on the river. Their mission is to put the rumors to rest about a boat that was washed into a tree on a nearby island after the town’s last flood. Arriving on the island, the two boys get way more than they bargained for. They meet Mud (Matthew McConaughey), an escaped fugitive who enlists the boys to help reunite him with the love of his life, Juniper (Reese Witherspoon).
In this third feature film by Nichols, he takes us on a journey of wonderment that plunges us into a world of mystery and peril. Ellis, who is torn between the fact that his parents could be splitting up and having to move to the mainland, is a dynamic character from the get go. Nichols does a great job of never veering from the path of letting us know who Ellis is, what his conflicts are, and where he stands as a young man delving in day to day mischief and sometimes even perilous activities to help this lovable and sympathetic stranger they call Mud.
The characters in Mud all play significant parts to Ellis and Neckbone’s journey and they truly give us meaning and reason for Ellis’ reasoning behind his choices to help Mud and reunite him with his girlfriend. From Ellis’ feuding parents Mary Lee (Sarah Paulson) and Senior (Ray McKinnon) to the mysterious loner Tom Blankenship (Sam Shepard), these brilliant performances really give structure to an already amazing story of love, and what a starving lonely convict wouldn’t do to see that girl one more time.
Mud flies along a pretty specific path giving us a bit of obvious foreshadowing with tiny pieces here and there that really grip and develop the movie into its thrilling climax. The foreshadowing can be very obvious at times, making you wonder if you can predict the ending. Nichols did a wonderful job of doing this, the whole movie I was playing out scenarios in my head but had no idea of the ride I would take in the last twenty minutes of the film.
With it being so early in 2013, I have to say that this is by far the best performance that has ever come from McConaughey to date. His charisma and lovable charm and wit, brings you in immediately from his first line to his last scene. Along with his sadness and undeniable struggle, he gives the performance of his life.
Mud is a coming of age story of two hard-necked teenage boys who take a journey with a complete stranger because they want to believe in true love. From its gritty scenery of river life and the struggles that go with it to it’s well written wit and charm, Mud is definitely a keeper and easily one of the most emotionally investing films I have seen in a long while.