OMG. OMG. O-M-Gee! Mud is wonderful.
Have you been wanting a male companion to Beasts of the Southern Wild? Wait no more! Do you remember the tall tales of Big Fish? Check! Do you fondly remember River Phoenix in Stand By Me? Who doesn't? Were you enchanted and spooked by the creepy-but-kind Boo Radley in To Kill A Mocking Bird? Yessss (shiver).
Mud is all of those things, and is also the strongest movie of the year so far. A contender for the Palm d'Or at Cannes, the story bundles buddy films, a father-son story, two love stories (one young love, another about tortured, complicated sour love), a mystery and other various plotlines that would make the Coen Brothers salivate.
The story is set in Arkansas, along a stretch of muddy river and among the river rats who subside there (a la Beasts of the Southern Wild); churning behind the scenes is whether Ellis (played to a tee by 16-year old Tye Sheridan, Tree of Life (2011)) will keep their ramshackle floating home that is as much about home as it is a lifestyle. When two boys (a la Stand By Me) come across a motorboat (strangely stranded in the treetops) and a scraggly, cryptic man (played by a greasy, scowling Matthew McConaughey) living in the boat, the Southern Gothic dominoes begin falling.
Snake bites, tall tales and pacts of loyalty, the story seems simple at the outset (ultimately, it is a story about love), but under the surface, it is murky and tangled, and storylines tensely wind onto each other. Is Mud (McConaughey) good or bad? Ill-intentioned or generous?
The film is tense, with loaded plot points subtly dropped into the scene—guns that are introduced in Act One that you expect to go off by the end of Act Three, backstories about the characters that may or may not be relevant, but even when they do not come into play, lingering like Boo Radley hiding behind the door waiting to jump out.
And, McConaughey has completed his transformation from superficial beau-hunk (i.e., How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days) to a wonderful dynamic, nuanced and dangerous actor (Lincoln Lawyer, Magic Mike).
Yes, Mud: Best film of the year . . . so far. SW
Dir. Jeff Nichols
Pilot Butte 6