Matthew McConaughey has been on an amazing run of interesting films in the last few years. Gone are the days of light romantic comedies with questionable scripts (The Wedding Planner, How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days, The Ghosts of Girlfriends Past). Starting in 2011’s Lincoln Lawyer, he’s made some great career choices playing interesting (and not always likeable) characters which showcase his natural acting talent. And starring in the title role in Mud follows that same trajectory.
Part Stand By Me, part Beasts of the Southern Wild, Mud is a coming of age story about two fourteen year old boys who find a fugitive hiding out in the woods and try to help him reunite with the love of his life.
Living in Arkansas in a house boat, Ellis (Tye Sheridan) and his friend Neckbone (Jacob Lofland) encounter Mud (McConaughey) when they go to a small island nearby in search of a boat stuck in a tree.
At first afraid, but then captivated by Mud’s story that he is waiting there for his love Juniper (Reese Witherspoon), the boys agree to help him reunite with her. Ellis, who is in love with a girl himself, just as his own parents are separating is very drawn to Mud’s story of the perfect love. But as the story unfolds, Mud turns out to be a fugitive from justice and bounty hunters begin to swarm the town, endagering the boys and changing the way they look at love and the people around them.
The film is beautifully filmed, capturing the golden light and earthy and rugged terrain. There’s a Southern gothic feel about it. All the characters – even the minor ones – are beautifully acted. Sam Sheppard, as Ellis’ crusty neighbour is a scene stealer. Michael Shannon as Neckbone’s uncle Galen provides some comic relief, while also being more complex and caring than he first seems.
But the film really centers on McConaughey and his intriguing title character. Part charm, part rogue, part mystery, you’ve never really sure how honest Mud is, but you like him anyway. You can see why the boys are compelled to help.
It’s a wonderful performance (and yes, he does eventually take his shirt off).
This river brings a lot of trash down, you gotta know what’s worth keeping and what’s worth letting go.
Even the sun shines on a dog’s ass some days.
People just forget sometimes why they fell in love in the first place.