After finding success with 2011’s critically acclaimed ‘Take Shelter’, director Jeff Nichols is back with a more linear narrative than that of his ambiguous previous hit; surrounding the story of Mud, a rugged fugitive taking residence on an island when two teenagers cross his path and vow to help him in his quest for love.
Being comparable to such engrossing and explorative tales of the novelist ‘Mark Twain’, Jeff Nichols’ storytelling is just as wildly impressive being immersive, believable and lovingly nostalgic throughout. Usually used as an irritating device to infuriate audiences and do little but play up to typical childish personas, both children in ‘Mud’ are the exact opposite being loveable and engaging, acting as mature and hugely realistic protagonists. Tye Sheridan leads as Ellis, a teenager in the limbo between childhood and being a teenager facing the relevant issues of this age such as parent troubles as well as the more foreboding issue and theme of love. Used subtly and tentatively throughout, this theme is well defined and used effortlessly to run parallel to the films central narrative. This creates for an unexpected yet undoubtedly welcomed ‘coming of age’ tale of two boys with a powerful friendship as they learn the realities of adulthood in a situation that they don’t quite understand. These strong themes and general explorative tone of the film hold strong for the majority of the film, sagging slightly in the third act where the film slows slightly and coincidently produces some inconsistent tones that feel jarring in amongst a film of a very different message.
Similar friendships are shown throughout as the film juggles plenty of differing themes shown through a plethora of acting talent. Matthew McConaughey, plays protagonist Ellis’ rock of support throughout the film whilst also focusing his efforts onto pleasing himself with the reuniting of him and his lover. Following in his fairly recent emergence as a serious and wildly talented actor, Matthew McConaughey is fantastic as the title character, Mud, effortlessly adapting to his changing situation with realism and style. As the plot progresses the film becomes ever more engrossing, introducing a well-developed handful of characters that are used intelligently to enhance the story instead of bogging it down. Mud’s relationship with one of his old friends of the town,Tom, (Sam Shepard) is especially notable as it feels genuine and heartfelt being very much comparable to the relationship of the two boys which shares just as much passion.
Mud sails at its own breezy pace being tentative and insightful throughout its journey, reminding audiences of the joys and confusions of childhood within a mesmerising setting of rural Mississippi. With excellent acting across each and every character, Mud easily immerses its audience through its fantastically written script and neatly woven characters that are overwhelmingly enjoyable to watch and engage with.
8.5/10- An uplifting tale of childhood disguised within a thrilling drama.