Written by Jeff Nichols
Directed by Jeff Nichols
Mud feels like a modern day Mark Twain tale. The story is predominantly about two teenaged boys in search of adventure on the banks of the great Mississippi river, and the incredible journey that they embark on that summer. One day while on an excursion to a small deserted island which houses a boat stuck in the treetops due to the last flood, Ellis (Tye Sheridan) and Neckbone (Jacob Lofland) discover more than what they could ever imagine- living on the island is a man named Mud (Matthew McConaughey), a wanted felon who asks them for help. The film is set as a Southern Gothic thriller, complete with sinister crimes, haunting sceneries and a multitude of flawed characters.
Director Jeff Nichols once again creates a powerful film with his latest work Mud. Just as with his prior efforts, Shotgun Stories (2007) and more recently Take Shelter (2011), Nichols manages to take on an innovative approach to storytelling. His films are ominous and disturbing in the best possible ways, they truly feel as if the events unfolding are happening to these carefully written characters; as an audience it is hard not to fall completely at the film’s mercy.
The cinematography is heartbreakingly beautiful, and the pacing gripping, yet it is the way the characters interact with one another that truly sets Mud apart from other films. McConaughey gives one of his strongest performances and Reese Witherspoon, playing the role of mysterious Juniper, is entrancing as the femme fatale. Both Sheridan and Lofland brilliantly portray coming-of-age boys trapped between childhood and adulthood, uncertain about what they see and feel. The character interrelations seem effortless and genuine, allowing the audience a rare view into these complex relationships. The Mississippi river itself plays a central role in this development for it links all these individuals together in some way or another, deep and dangerous, murky and calm.
Mud is an enthralling and effective film that deals with the constant struggle between good and evil that resides in all of us. It brings the audience along for a rich journey, a journey of love, loss, trust and misgivings.