Written and Directed by Jeff Nichols
Starring Matthew McConaughey, Tye Sheridan and Reese Witherspoon
Mud: It’s a hell of a thing, a boat in a tree.
Do not be fooled. Just because you see Matthew McConaughey and Reese Witherspoon above the title, does not mean you are about to watch another mindless romantic comedy. I’m not sure about Witherspoon but it would appear that McConaughey is done with those, at least for now. MUD, the latest film by independent filmmaker, Jeff Nichols (TAKE SHELTER), is also the latest in a string of films where McConaughey is clearly challenging himself as an actor. Here, he has shed his pristine shine and looks like something that washed ashore years ago and hasn’t bathed since. More importantly though, he is actually succeeding in his quest to reinvent himself and MUD may be his best work yet.
MUD is a fairly straight forward, yet still solidly engaging, coming of age tale. Ellis (Tye Sheridan, fresh off his debut turn in THE TREE OF LIFE) is content with his simple life living with his parents along a river in Arkansas until one fateful week where everything changes. One minute, he’s a normal teenage boy, getting himself into trouble by sneaking off to a neighbouring island at dawn to work on an abandoned boat he found in a tree. The next, he finds himself helping out a fugitive he meets on that island, named Mud (McConaughey). Mud is hiding out until he knows the coast is clear for him to reunite with his childhood sweetheart, Juniper (Reese Witherspoon, giving her best performance since WALK THE LINE), who is laying low at a motel in waiting. Their love is complicated and troubled to say the least but in Ellis’s eyes, Mud’s mission to be with her despite all obstacles is exactly the inspiration he needs, what with his parents just announcing that they are divorcing.
MUD reminds us that to come of age today does not have to mean getting lost is a barrage of social media and sexually explicit marketing ploys. And thanks to honest performances from the entire ensemble, which also includes Sam Shepard, Sarah Paulson and a hilarious turn from Nichols regular, Michael Shannon, we are also able to get away from the distractions of our supposedly modern lives and remember what it means to truly fight for love while having no idea whether or not it is truly worth fighting for.