MUD DVD (2012)

SYNOPSIS: A pair of inquisitive adolescents encounter a charismatic drifter with an incredible story in this drama from Take Shelter writer/director Jeff Nichols. Mississippi adolescents Ellis (Tye Sheridan) and Neckbone (Jacob Lofland) are exploring along the mighty Mississippi when they stumble upon a small island inhabited by Mud (Matthew McConaughey), a desperado who claims to be on the run from brutal bounty hunters after killing a man in Texas. According to Mud, his true love Juniper (Reese Witherspoon) is awaiting his arrival in town, and together they plan to make a daring escape. Fascinated, the two boys agree to help Mud slip past his pursuers, despite the potential dangers of doing so.


Since changing the course of his career, Matthew McConaughey has done like five consecutively indie titles which include the award-winning Dallas Buyers Club, Bernie, Killer Joe, The Paperboy and Mud. This decision finally paid off for McConaughey in 2014. The Texan won his first Oscar after being mocked for years for his frequent shirtless antics in his movies.   

For the most part, McConaughey kept his shirt on in Mud in case you are wondering. In this Jeff Nichols’ self-penned, directorial effort, he plays a drifter named Mud whose lucky charms are his pistol and a worn out beige shirt. Mud is on the run after killing a guy who abused his ex-girlfriend, Juniper (Reese Witherspoon). He hides on a small island in the Mississippi River until two teenage boys, Ellis (Ty Sheridan) and Neckbone (Jacob Lofland) befriends him. He plans to run away with Juniper and he needs the boys to help him in repairing a broken boat so he can escaped the police and ruthless bounty hunters.

Requiring nothing but patience, Mud is an engaging drama with deliberate pacing. It’s a coming-of-age tale set in rural Arkansas and with Nichol so adept at his characters’ development and storytelling, it’s a powerful viewing experience. The modern day Mark Twain approach to Ellis and Neckbone’s characters is both intriguing and reflective. Mud probably sees Ellis as his younger self, on the other hand Ellis sees Mud as an older figure he can related to given his parents are having marital problems.

Assembling a cast that also includes Michael Shannon as Neckbone’s uncle, Sam Shepard as Mud’s older father figure, their roles while significantly small adds colors to the story. Reese Witherspoon shines in a role that is a grand departure to the usual girl-next-door stuff she dabbled in. McConaughey of course is the soul of Mud. He is charming, unpredictable and deeply rooted in his love for Juniper. Ty Sheridan from Tree of Life and Lofland is impressive as the young adventurers and clearly has the potential for bigger roles in the future.      

Mud is a well told, compelling story of boyhood and manhood with hints of adventure, mystery, love and bits of action rolled into one. Nichols is one filmmaker that deserved better attention. Hollywood still has hope.  




Mud is in general a quiet movie though it does showcase clear dialogue and solid ambient effects. Visually, the cinematography is rich and natural making you wish you could make a trip to Arkansas to experience it yourself.  



Review by Linus Tee