This summer, before I went to Spain to teach, I noticed that several of my friends had asked me if I had seen the 2012 film “Mud.”
Interestingly enough, when I got back several more friends asked me the same question. While my answer was “no” every time, their response turned out to be the same as well. Every one of them agreed, “It’s an awesome movie.”
Naturally, in my travels from Tennessee to my school in Florida, I didn’t have the chance to watch it until the other day, and was worth the wait.
“Mud” tells the story of two teenage friends, Ellis and Neckbone, who live in rural Arkansas along the Mississippi River.
After a big flood, Neckbone finds an old boat that has gotten stuck high in a tree, and he and Ellis decide that they will salvage it and make it their own. When the two venture out to the remote island the boat is on to get a better look at it, they discover that a man has been living in the boat.
As they venture back out to their boat to leave, they run into the man, who introduces himself as Mud.
Played by Matthew McConaughey, Mud explains that he grew up in the area and he’s hiding out while waiting for his old girlfriend, Juniper, so the two can reunite and leave town.
When the boys get back into town they hear that Mud first left town because he killed a man, and Neckbone tells Ellis that they shouldn’t go back to the island. Ellis, however, doesn’t feel threatened by Mud and takes Neckbone back out to the island to learn the man’s story.
I’ll leave it up to you to find out the rest, but I will tell you that it involves an unlikely friendship between the two boys and Mud along with numerous parties who are out to find the superstitious drifter.
While the boys work to help Mud reunite with Juniper, Ellis begins to find hope in Mud’s love for her and tries to apply it to his crush, May Pearl.
Like my friends, I thought the movie was awesome. McConaughey plays Mud incredibly, both with a sense of mystery and a genuine feeling of simplistic hope.
In the past, the actor has been widely criticized for playing shallow roles in romantic comedies, taking the easy road in his movie career.
While I partially agree with that sentiment, I’ve always thought he was a great actor, with his roles in “A Time to Kill” and “Dazed and Confused” being particularly good.
Lately, however, with his work in both “Mud” and “Killer Joe” being applauded by critics, McConaughey has been making better choices on the films he makes.
One critic likened it to him finally learning to read after all of these years, but that’s a little harsh.
Either way, his character anchors the film while the supporting cast complements it greatly, and viewers get a great Southern picture that blends Ellis coming of age with a suspenseful twist that leaves you guessing about how everything will work out in the end and truly enjoying the way it does.
Tye Sheridan, who plays Ellis, does an amazing job playing a teenage boy whose mind works like a 40-year-old’s and his perspective on the situation really grounds the story.
The film was written and directed by Jeff Nichols, a Little Rock native and brother to musician Ben Nichols of the Memphis-based Country Rock band Lucero, whose work appears on the soundtrack.
I could write 3,000 words about how incredible Lucero is on their own, but I’ll keep this with the film’s director.
While I haven’t seen his previous two films, “Shotgun Stories” and “Take Shelter,” I’m actively seeking them out because “Mud” was so great.
I, like anyone from the South, have a soft spot for a film that can capture a Southern accent without making fun of it, and this is a touching example of one of those rare films.