Serious Movie Lover

Mud: Rural Adventure Worthy of Tom and Huck

By / Wednesday, May 8, 2013 / Category: Review / 1 comment

MUD (2012/In Theaters)

Sheridan, Lofland, and McConaughey in Mud

Sheridan, Lofland, and McConaughey in Mud

Mud is the third movie written and directed by Jeff Nichols. As with his last feature, the criminally overlooked Take Shelter, I am reluctant to say too much about the details of Mud’s plot here. Nichols makes movies that are authentic and surprising, best enjoyed with no expectations. This one takes place in a small town in Arkansas, where lives are divided between the parking lots and seedy motels of Town and the simplicity and freedom of the River. Two boys, portrayed with incredible depth and nuance by Ty Sheridan and Jacob Lofland (the latter looking like he walked right out of Stand By Me and into this film, Fugazi t-shirt notwithstanding), discover a mysterious stranger named Mud (Matthew McConaughey) and decide to help him in his quest. The adventures that unfold are a window into their families, friendships, homes, youth, and waning innocence.

Again Nichols’ film is gorgeous, favoring dawn and twilight, nature and water. As in Take Shelter, he somehow uses simple, quiet lives to convey more suspense and emotion than any blockbuster thriller or mile-a-minute action flick I’ve seen; in part because his characters are so real and the performances so strong. In addition to the two outstanding young leads, Nichols regulars Ray McKinnon and Michael Shannon (whose broad range continues to astound), and Sam Shepard, Sarah Paulson, and Reese Witherspoon are all excellent. And I won’t ever associate McConaughey with tepid romantic comedies again after this (and Magic Mike, of course). Mud, both the man and the film, is a study in balance: simultaneously ominous and endearing, simple and complex, small and grand. See it.

Grade: A

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