Mud (2013): On the Mississippi River

Posted: February 28, 2014 in Drama

mud-poster01On an adventure down the Mississippi River, Ellis and Neckbone discover a boat stuck up in the branches of a tree. While searching the wreckage, they discover that the boats seems to be occupied. Back on the shore, they encounter a man who makes a deal with them: trade some food for the boat in the tree when he departs the island. While the boys leave the island initially, Ellis is intrigued by the man’s kindness and chooses to return with some cans. Ellis seems to make a connection with the man, who finally reveals that his name is Mud. Back at home, Ellis begins to struggle with the tension between his parents and the potential separation of his family and possible dismantling of their houseboat. To distract himself from the troubles at home, he chooses to get caught up in trying to help Mud extract the boat from the tree and reconnect with his love, Juniper.

Starring: Matthew McConaughey (Mud), Reese Witherspoon (Juniper), Tye Sheridan (Ellis), Jacob Lofland (Neckbone), Sam Shepard (Tom), Ray McKinnon (Senior), Sarah Paulson (Mary Lee), Michael Shannon (Galen), Joe Don Baker (King), Paul Sparks (Carver), Bonnie Sturdivant (May Pearl)

McConaughey appeared to be a bit more passive in this film than others, but his character was also dealing with his past by distancing himself from the rest of society. Stealing the screen was the performance by Tye Sheridan. As a young teenager, he depicted the childlike trust of an innocent kid while also struggling through significant challenges of love and heartache. Jacob Lofland was a good partner for Sheridan’s character as both an instigator and thoughtful friend. In contrast, McKinnon and Paulson got lost a bit in the overall telling of the story. Witherspoon served more as a plot point than a significant presence on-screen.

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Jeff Nichols’s film felt like a combination of Huckleberry Finn and Badlands in the way that the film focused on a combination of friendships, secrets, and adventure. Ellis knew that there was something brewing at home between his mother and father. There was even a point that he felt compelled to ask questions of his father. As it became more clear that the tension was going to stay, he immersed himself in the unusual friendship with the mysterious man on the island with the boat in the tree. This distraction was something that did not scare him, even though he learned of Mud’s criminal entanglement. He continued to help Mud, even when it meant stealing scraps and pieces across the town to help with the repairs of the boat.

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Relationships dominated the storyline of this film. While the divorce/separation of Ellis’s parents was important, there was little development in their relationship as opposed to the other characters. Ellis was experiencing his first love with May Pearl. Though she was a few years older, she seemed to react positively to his heroism against a boy that was harassing her in a parking lot. While he felt that she was into him, May Pearl was toying with his emotions and ended up breaking his heart. While Ellis had used the love between Mud and Juniper as inspiration, May Pearl’s dismal of their relationship was the final straw that turned him sour to love. All he was seeing around him was love failing and it was messing with his still developing emotions.

This film had some interesting relationships and a sense of mystery but fell a little short in its character development outside of Ellis and Mud.

Dan’s Rating: 3.5/5


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