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
Frankly, a bad Terrence Malick film is better than 90 percent of movies released in cinemas: but if you thought The Tree of Life was indulgent and overly kaleidoscopic, you should avoid this like the plague. Because this film is even looser and more internalised, taking an impressionistic approach to plot and characters that gives us very few specifics. It also leaves the cast to play mere hints of people who are having crises of faith and love.
After a lushly romantic trip to Paris and Mont Saint-Michel, Neil (Affleck) brings his French girlfriend Marina (Kurylenko) and her 10-year-old daughter Tatiana (Chiline) home to Oklahoma to live. The geography and culture are a shock to both of them, but Marina tells Neil, "If you love me, I'm OK here." So they begin to bond as a family, and Marina turns to local Catholic priest Quintana (Bardem) for support. But he's having a crisis of faith, and she's wondering if she's made a terrible mistake. So when her visa expires, she takes Tatiana and returns to France. In confusion, Neil then turns to his old flame Jane (McAdams). But as their rekindled romance begins to get serious, she realises that he's still in love with Marina.
Malick tells this story with snippets of ideas and feelings. Emmanuel Lubezki's sumptuous cinematography finds raw beauty everywhere, including in Malick's trademark sun-dappled leaves, waving wheat fields and rippling water. But there's also raw beauty in the actors' faces, and we understand their thoughts through breathy voiceovers that offer philosophical musings and biblical texts. As a result, only Marina emerges as a properly defined character with passion and yearnings; everyone else is sketchy and vague. Even Affleck and Bardem, who have strong on-screen presence, never quite register here.
Continue reading: To the Wonder Review
Lisa Maria Falcone, Matthew Mcconaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Sarah Green, Cannes Film Festival and Tye Sheridan - Tye Sheridan, Aaron Ryder, Lisa Maria Falcone, Sarah Green, Jeff Nichols, Reese Witherspoon, Matthew MCConaughey and Jacob Lofland Saturday 26th May 2012 'Mud' photocall during the 65th annual Cannes Film Festival