Mud  The Podwits Review

Posted: June 4, 2013 by Podwits Administrator in Film, Film Review
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Mud is an ode to innocence that evokes Mark Twain set on the precipice of adulthood.

Mud Theatrical PosterReview by Luke Whitmire

Mud is writer/director Jeff Nichols third film (Shotgun Stories, Take Shelter) that takes place in his home state of Arkansas, in the Delta Bayous along the Mississippi. Nichols has a real familiarity with this particular life of foraging for fish, living on houseboats tethered along the shore, and adolescence curiosity in the backwoods South. Nichols layers his characters in this unique world that is rich and emotionally touching.

The story follows a fourteen year old boy Ellis (Tye Sharidan) and his best friend Neckbone (Jacob Loftland), who discover an abandoned boat-a small cabin cruiser-on an island out in the middle of a river. They find this boat sitting in a tree, wedged in between two limbs. With elation, the boys claim the boat their own and rummage through its interior. But the boat is already claimed by a slovenly looking stranger named Mud (Matthew McConaughey). Mud informs the boys that he will leave soon, and that he is waiting on the love of his life, Juniper (Reese Witherspoon), who he plans on cruising down with to the Gulf of Mexico for a new beginning.Matthew McConaughey

Mud is a fugitive on the run for murdering a man and eludes local police and bounty hunters, intent on dispensing lethal justice. Mud procures a 45. Caliber pistol, a lucky shirt, and an inexhaustible amount of cigarettes to get him by from day-to-day. But he still needs food and supplies for the boat, so he befriends Ellis and Neckbone to assist him. Ellis, who is infatuated with the attributes of love, admires Mud’s love for Juniper, and goes the extra mile in helping the two reconnect.

The core essence of the film is about love and how the asperity of life often besets the tranquility and passion we share with others. Love is the posture of the soul, and its entailments are binding. Love should never be manufactured for the moment, but should be perpetual and entail trust and forgiveness in everyday life. Ellis’ parents who still love each other, converse a lot about getting a divorce. Ellis himself yearns for an older girl at school, but her lack of commitment is breaking his heart. And Juniper has issues that keep her from fully committing to Mud. Nichols calibrates the core essence of love and trust with precision, allowing inflections and emoting to convey what the characters are feeling. The story is not saturated with dialogue heavy scenes, instead Nichols builds an authentic reality by letting the characters have time to show expression. Nichols never rushes his characters sorrows, he lets you relate and understand his characters in so many ways.Matthew McConaughey, Tye Sharidan & Jacob Loftland

McConaughey is the focal point of the film; he maintains a duality that is very hard to do as an actor. He does a brilliant job playing a killer who has to be gentle with the two boys as he works with them. Mud is a conflicted and confused soul who tells the boys at one point-“There are fierce powers at work in the world.” Sharidan and McConauhey are impeccable together, they never overact, never overplay their emotion. These two carry the film as they both learn how to love and trust one another in dark and cynical times.

Watching this film, I couldn’t stop noticing parallels to Mark Twain’s prolific classic novel  Huckleberry Finn and Rob Reiner’s classic film Stand by Me. It really is a coming-of-age tale like a Twain adventure in a contemporary setting.

Bottom line:
Jeff Nichols concocts a compelling, authentic tale of love and trust, fashioned in Southern Gothic. This enchanting, intelligent fairy tale, steeped in Mississippi  lore of Twain and other great American writers, makes it in my top three films list for this year.

* * * * *
5 out of 5 stars 


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