The film is as blue collar as Take Shelter, maybe even more so, and it focuses on a pair of young friends who are coming up in the world. Not really a coming of age film, it focuses on these kids’ experiences when they cross paths with a drifter on a river island and they decide to help him. As the plot thickens things become increasingly dangerous as their home lives a are also tested.
Mud is a character study at its heart, but it sneakily builds a compelling plot that Nichols wonderfully brings together in the end. Any complaints against the film are minor, but I think they are certainly worth mentioning. Michael Shannon appears in the film though he is never really developed and doesn’t have a whole lot to do. He does get a great scene opposite the film’s star, Tye Sheridan, but I kept on wishing I got more of him. Also underdeveloped is the title character’s love interest, played by Reese Witherspoon, and unfortunately she is also the weakest acting link in the film. I am able to buy Mud’s desire for her because Matthew McConaughey is damn good here as Mud, but I think the film could have been much better suited by giving us a bit more to believability to that passion. The film’s pacing is also just a bit slow at times and Nichols does a bit too much telegraphing if you ask me as certain elements seem there artificially for the plot over feeling organic. Beware of Chekhov’s snake.
Enough negative though, lets get on to the rest of the film’s good stuff. Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland star as a pair of best friends getting into trouble on the rivers of Arkansas and the two have an instant chemistry and report that makes the film work wonderfully and also hilarious. They make this friendship feel lived in and organic and we will follow this pair just about anywhere, even if they might not be making the smartest decisions. We can chalk it up to immaturity and their naivety builds tension as they interact and run errands for Mud off the island.
McConaughey continues a string of great performances here as Mud is charming, likable and easy to get behind even he we know we can’t quite trust him. McConaughey’s swagger works wonders for the allure he has over our two heroes and he is also able to give Mud that twinge of danger at all times. Sarah Paulson and Ray McKinnon are also both great as the parents of Sheridan and they are, again, a couple characters I would have liked to get to know more about. Sam Shepard also comes in and is a badass as necessary, this is much appreciated.
Minor complaints aside, Mud is worth your trip to the theater. Nichols has crafted a fine looking picture and tells a compelling story that will have you on the edge of your seat by the end. The issues with lack of character depth is easily explained due to being told from the kids perspective, but I’m still not sure a larger ensemble focus might have been a bit better. Still, then we might miss some of the excellent humor of the kids and their great relationship, so what do I know. Mud is probably under your radar, you should put it on it this weekend.
Mud is a B+