Mud (12A)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner10/05/2013

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 130 mins

Impressively directed and beautifully shot, this is an emotionally engaging and powerfully evocative coming-of-age drama with a superb script and terrific performances from a note-perfect cast.

What's it all about?
Written and directed by Jeff Nichols (Shotgun Stories, Take Shelter), Mud stars Tye Sheridan (Tree of Life) as Ellis, a 14 year old Arkansas boy whose houseboat-dwelling parents (Ray McKinnon and Sarah Paulson) are on the verge of splitting up. To escape his troubled homelife, Ellis spends his days exploring the local waterways with his best friend Neckbone (Jacob Loftland).

When they hear rumours of a motorboat stranded up a tree on a remote island, Ellis and Neckbone investigate and come across a stranger named Mud (Matthew McConaughey) living on the island. Mud tells them that he's hiding from the police, but the boys decide to trust him and agree to help him escape and reunite with his girlfriend Juniper (Reese Witherspoon), who is waiting for him on the mainland.

The Good
Tye Sheridan and Jacob Loftland are terrific as a sort of modern day Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn and their Stand By Me-style friendship is both believable and touching. In addition, Matthew McConaughey continues his recent run of magnificent performances with another stand-out turn as a good-hearted, but trouble-prone man (with a ‘Lucky Shirt’, no less – a nice nod to McConaughey's frequently shirtless screen persona), while there's strong support from Reese Witherspoon as Juniper and Michael Shannon (Nichols' regular collaborator) puts in a small but welcome cameo as Neckbone's advice-dispensing uncle.

Nichols' evocative script is presented from Ellis' point-of-view and perfectly captures both the excitement of unsupervised childhood adventure and the dawning awareness of encroaching adulthood and being forced to confront darker issues. Nichols also beautifully illustrates the thrills and the heartbreak of first love, in an engaging subplot involving Ellis falling for a local girl (Bonnie Sturdivant) who's slightly older than him.

The Great
The film is beautifully shot and lit, courtesy of Nichols' regular cinematographer Adam Stone, who makes strong use of the rural and river-based Arkansas locations and perfectly recreates the atmosphere of a lazy Arkansas summer, to the point where you can practically feel the sun on your skin. On top of that, Nichols maintains an appropriately leisurely pace for the first half of the film before pulling off an unexpectedly action-heavy finale that's genuinely shocking and heart-in-your-mouth tense.

Worth seeing?
Mud, the third film in what might be termed Jeff Nichols' Arkansas Trilogy, is a richly rewarding, atmospheric and beautifully shot coming-of-age tale with an emotionally engaging script, a strong sense of place and the latest in a series of tremendous performances from Matthew McConaughey. Highly recommended.

Film Trailer

Mud (12A)
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Content updated: 15/12/2017 17:45

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