Director: Jeff Nichols
Premise: Two small town Arkansas boys stumble across a boat in a tree along with its rugged, meandering occupant, who’s waiting for the love of his life and harboring more than a few secrets.
Mud is an all-American tale about a few all-American boys that watches like Jeff Nichols plucked Huckleberry Finn right out of 1884 and dropped him into the chiseled middle-aged perfection that is Matthew McConaughey. Not often are we treated to such a fun, adventurous movie that has as much heart and depth as Mud, a spirit and sincerity shared by every single actor in the film. As the title character, McConaughey embraces the role of the free-spirited, lovestruck dreamer who believes in fairy tales lives his life by his own moral code. Along with the saccharine, syrupy accent and restless, vibrating energy McConaughey brings to every role, he manages to inject both a warmth and a dangerous edge to the role of Mud, who at first glance appears to be an enigmatic and selfish loner, a closer look reveals him to be a fiercely loyal representation of human nature and our desire to never give up on the things we love the most.
This story unfolds in two parts, one that introduces two teenage boys to an adventure, exploring and bartering with a stranger for the boat they’ve discovered and claimed as their own. The other delves deeper into the dangers of the excitement and independence they’ve come to envy during the time they spend with Mud. The relationships he builds with his two young costars, particularly with Ellis (Tye Sheridan) is one that lends lessons to be learned on both ends. Just as Mud shares his philosophy on life and loyalty, Ellis imparts his simplistic views on love, which is an outlook that both represents his youth and maturity simultaneously.
As Ellis, Tye Sheridan creates a mercurial, yet rock solid balance between himself every character he shares the screen with, bringing out the best in each of his costars. The raw exuberance and wisdom that only come with youth is contagious when he interacts with not only Mud, but his family and friends too . He rivals McConaughey as the most engaging presence in this film, which is high praise considering this is one of the best performances of his career.
Director and writer Jeff Nichols manages to combine dramatic storytelling with the intricate weavings of human nature and genuine friendship, creating a unique viewing experience that balances patience exposition with adventure and suspense. As a result, Mud is the most surprisingly delightful and heartwarming movies I’ve seen in years.