• Year:2012
  • Rating:M
  • Director:Jeff Nichols
  • Cast:Matthew McConaughey , Michael Shannon, Tye Sheridan, Reese Witherspoon
  • Release Date:June 13, 2013
  • Distributor:Roadshow
  • Running time:130 minutes
  • Film Worth:$19.00
  • FILMINK rates movies out of $20 - the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth

A soulful and richly textured piece of storytelling.

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With just three films to his name (including his 2007 debut feature, Shotgun Stories, and 2011’s Take Shelter), writer/director, Jeff Nichols, is establishing himself as one of cinema’s most original, daring and exciting new voices. And while his impressive first two arthouse efforts aimed for the head more than the heart, Mud proves that Nichols also has the capacity to stir up big, bruising and heartfelt emotions.

The story, which has Mark Twain’s fingerprints all over it, follows two teenage boys, Ellis (Tree Of Life’s Tye Sheridan) and his best friend, Neckbone (Jacob Lofland), who are spending the summer looking for teenage kicks, which they find when they stumble upon a seemingly abandoned boat on a deserted island. But the boys soon discover an outlaw named Mud has taken up residence in the boat and is attempting to outrun the cops and his past. The only thing delaying Mud is the fact that he wants to take his childhood sweetheart (Reese Witherspoon) with him – and he lures the boys into helping him. While Neckbone is appropriately wary, Ellis is pulled in by Mud and his unconditional love for his girlfriend (which stands in contrast to the disintegrating marriage of his own parents). And it’s here that the film finds its heart with Mud and his broken promises providing Ellis’ entry into manhood.   

While the film is a classic coming of age tale at its core, it’s also a thrilling piece of storytelling packed with grand gestures and plot twists. But it’s Nichols’ rich sense of character and place that elevate what could just be a familiar yarn into something sublime. The film’s wonderfully dense with beautifully offbeat details and characterisations that don’t necessarily propel the narrative but just enrich the story and make it feel warm, alive and true. And lending the film its own flavour is the backdrop of the Mississippi River with Mud bringing to mind last year’s acclaimed Beasts of the Southern Wild, another film about a community living a perilous but gratifying existence on the water’s edge. The fact that Ellis’ house on the river (and his father’s way of earning a living) is looking to be demolished by the government provides a poignant but never forceful metaphor for the boy’s own loss of innocence.

While Nichols has done a superb job behind the camera, the actors are just as mesmerising. Sheridan is a wonder and his scenes with McConaughey – funny, tender and ultimately heartbreaking – are the best moments of the film. As the titular character who feels both mythical and tragically real, McConaughey is exceptional with the actor brilliantly projecting a disheveled charm and persuasion, and allowing traces of menace and heartache to bubble just below the surface. Just like its lead character, this film is packed to the brim with sadness, swagger and soul.

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