Posted by: ckckred | May 9, 2013

Mud

Jeff Nichols follows Take Shelter with another great picture

Jeff Nichols follows Take Shelter with another great picture

Mud, director Jeff Nichols’ newest film, is an ode to the South.  It’s almost like a modern day take of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and it also resembles last year’s Beasts of the Southern Wild and I even found some parts similar to No Country For Old Men.  Nichols’ previous picture, Take Shelter, was an extended metaphor to the current economic state.  While Mud is not as complex as that movie, it is no less accomplished and is a fine addition to Nichols’ filmography.

The story of Mud is about two fourteen year-olds from Arkansas named Ellis and Neckbone (newcomer Tye Sheridan and The Tree of Life’s Jacob Lofland respectively).  Ellis lives in a small house built on the water as his father is a local fisher.  One day, Ellis and Neckbone go out in the early morning to an island on the Mississippi River that has a boat lodged up in a tree.  They’re surprised to discover that someone actually lives in the boat.

That someone is Mud, played by Matthew McConaughey.  Mud, much like actual mud, is more than what meets the eyes.  He’s friendly to the two boys and asks them to help repair the boat and take it out of the tree.  But soon, Nichols exposes that Mud is an escaped convict, and Ellis and Neckbone get involved in a whole new series of events, involving a couple of bounty hunters and Mud’s girlfriend Juniper, played by Reese Witherspoon.

Mud is different than Take Shelter, but it is just as analytical.  Nichols examines his characters with a close eye and provides a fascinating, thoroughly engaging viewpoint for audiences.  Ellis is a lonely, emotionally conflicted child.  His parents are getting divorced and his home will be torn apart.  He looks up to Mud as a role model, seeing Mud’s relationship with Juniper close to his one with a girl about three years older than him.

Love is the core of Mud.  It’s what drives the characters.  Mud desperately wants to be with Juniper, and the boys look up to him with their own sign of friendship.  It’s quite an emotionally powerful movie delivered on such a small and intimate scale.  Nichols never attempts to bash sentimentalism to his audience and delivers one of the most moving pictures of the past few years.

In a way, Mud is a celebration of the South and nature itself.  As the boys go down the river, I was reminded of Huck and Jim rowing down the Mississippi River (Huck Finn), or Hushpuppy’s travels in the Bathtub (Beasts of the Southern Wild), and I even felt it was a smaller scale version of the boat scenes in Apocalypse Now.  Like Terrence Malick, Nichols sings of the praises of nature.  He pauses the camera in scenes allowing audiences to lap of the beauty of the landscape.

Mud’s central strength is its actors.  Matthew McConaughey has never been better than he has as Mud.  Both Sheridan and Lofland are great as the two boys.  While Reese Witherspoon’s given a smaller role, she’s fine as well.

Mud cements Jeff Nichols as one of the best contemporary filmmakers working today.  While Mud is not a flawless movie, it’s one that will surprise audiences and be well remembered.

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Responses

  1. Fine write-up, man. As a big fan of Nichols, I can’t wait to see this.

    • Thanks! Nichols is emerging as one of the best directors today. I liked this almost as much as Take Shelter.

  2. Nice review mate. Definitely looking forward to this. I just hope it gets a wide release near me.

    • Thanks! It’s a great movie, and I hope more people will see it.

  3. Nice write-up. This is one of the films i’ve been looking forward to this year. Can’t wait.

    • Thanks! It’s great, almost as good as Take Shelter.

  4. Lovely write-up. I really want to watch this one…

    • Thanks! I highly recommend it.

  5. As you know I love this movie and you nicely sum up why. It’s my favorite film of the year so far.

    • Yah, it met my very high expectations. Loved it and this definitely is a strong contender for my top 10 list for the end of the year. Thanks for commenting.

  6. I missed this one but I really wanted to see it! The trailer looked great and your review makes it sound great too! Maybe I’ll have time to catch it sometime, but it sounds really good. Nice review!

    • Thanks! I think it’s slowly expanding in theaters. I highly recommend it and it’s almost as Take Shelter.

  7. Solid review. Everybody in this movie is on their A-game and chooses to make these characters more than just simple, conventional pieces of substance. There’s more to them all and it was lovely to see.

    • Thanks! Nichols is proving himself to be one of the best directors today.

  8. I didn’t even think of the Huck Finn comparison, but it certainly fits. I really enjoyed this one, one of the better movies I’ve seen so far this year. Nice review. 🙂

    • Thanks! This is actually the first 2013 movie I’ve seen this year, but it was great nonetheless.

  9. Definitely looking forward to seeing this one, I haven’t had time yet but I’ll probably catch it when it comes out on DVD. Great review

    • Thanks! It’s expanding it more theaters I believe, and it’s definitely worth seeing on the big screen.

      • It just came to my favorite theater this weekend, I’m in!

  10. Nice review, man. Glad to hear you enjoyed this one as well. Nichols is quickly becoming a favorite of mine.

    • Thanks! Nichols surely is one of the best directors working today.

  11. McConaughey and the two teen boys give a trio of great performances but I was underwhelmed by the story. Another coming of age story about a boy thrust into adulthood. And what was up with that genre action climax at the end? It felt like it was from different film. Glad you enjoyed it so much though.

    • The movie isn’t without its flaws and I had some problems with a few of the characters (I would have liked to seen more development with the parents), but I enjoyed the film overall. I’ll check your review out.

  12. Sounds awesome and I can’t wait to get a chance to check it out.

    • It’s great, almost as good as Take Shelter. Thanks for commenting.


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