Writer-director Nichols continues to get inside the heads of his characters with this involving but overlong dramatic thriller. Like his previous film Take Shelter, this is another fable-like movie, this time harking back to Huck Finn with a boys' adventure story set on the waterways of rural Arkansas. It's impeccably shot and edited, with terrific performances even from side characters. But at over two hours, the long running-time tries our patience.
Our hero is Ellis (Sheridan), a shy but steely 14-year-old who dreams of one day escaping his backwoods community. For entertainment, he explores the rivers with his pal Neckbone (Lofland), and when they hear rumours of a boat stranded in a tree, they have to investigate. Sure enough, there it is, then inside it they discover the fugitive Mud (McConaughey). Even though he's wanted for murder, they decide to help free the boat so he can escape with his battered girlfriend Juniper (Witherspoon), who's hiding in a local motel. But Ellis and Neckbone need some help with this elaborate plan, so they turn to the scary old man (Shepard) who lives across the river.
Cinematographer Adam Stone beautifully captures both the evocative settings and the expressive faces of the actors, who all bring an introspective touch to their characters. Sheridan and Lofland are excellent in the lead roles, which are pretty demanding as these two teens have to grow up quickly. And McConaughey and Witherspoon dive fully into their much flashier roles, constantly surprising us with sparky details that take these people in unexpected directions. There's also a telling smaller role for Nichols' regular Shannon as Neckbone's haunted, sidelined guardian.
Continue reading: Mud Review
Ellis and Neckbone are two young boys from Mississippi who spend their time exploring the wilderness and river near their home. When they discover a sizeable motor boat stuck in a tree after a flood, they think they've hit the jackpot of all discoveries and claim it as their own. However, they soon notice that food has been left there, leading them to believe that someone has been sleeping there. Unnerved, they leave to find their boat and venture home, only to come across a new neighbour on the isolated island, Mud. Mud is hiding from some bounty hunters who want to arrest him for killing a man in Texas who attempted to steal his girlfriend Juniper. Initially, wary of him, the boys soon warm to him and agree to bring him food if he helps them mend their motor boat before Juniper arrives to meet him. However, things aren't as easy as they seem when the boys start becoming suspicious of Mud and Juniper has problems of her own.
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Ellis and Neckbone are two fourteen year old boys from Mississippi who, after crossing a river in a small boat on one of their regular explorations, discover a larger motor boat stuck in a tree on an island after a previous flood. They claim the boat as their own but soon begin to discover that someone has been sleeping there and they come across Mud. Mud is a man who has been hiding from a group of bounty hunters who have been hired by the family of a man he murdered in Texas for attempting to steal his beautiful girlfriend Juniper. The boys are sympathetic and captivated by him and agree to help him mend the boat while he makes plans to meet Juniper, who is hiding out in a motel, and run away with her. Things don't go as smoothly as planned and deceptions and suspicion causes tensions to rise between Mud, Juniper and the boys.
'Mud' is an emotional journey tackling issues about right and wrong and good guys and bad guys. It has been directed and written by Jeff Nichols ('Take Shelter', 'Shotgun Stories') and received a last minute nomination for the Palme d'Or award on its showing at the Cannes Film Festival. It is set to hit cinemas on April 17th 2013.
Director: Jeff Nichols
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