Mud Review

Mud

The power of love is a curious thing.

Makes one man weep, another man sing.

And in the case of a lone wolf called Mud, love can have an altogether more disturbing effect.

Ellis is a young lad growing up amongst the fractured marriage of his parents in a backwater river town in Arkansas.

There ain’t much to keep a teenage boy occupied in this town, so when Ellis and his colourfully monikered bff Neckbone find a boat halfway up a tree on a deserted island, it’s just about the most exciting thing to happen in their waters all year.

Only problem being that someone seems to have already claimed this tree-boat for themselves.

And that someone, is a charming silver tongued devil by the name of Mud; probably because his real name has the same qualities when spoken about by civilised folk.

Now when Mud was a kid, he grew up in the same backwater town as Ellis and Neckbone, and an experience like this tends to leave its mark.

For the boys in town, this is the idea of falling in love with the prettiest girl you can find.

It’s easily the most exciting thing about Arkansas.

And in Mud’s case, the name of his most exciting thing is Juniper.

Now Mud loves his girl with all his heart, even when she’s not his girl anymore; which is kind of how he ended up living on a tree-boat in the first place.

You didn’t think it’d be for him now did you?

Clearly Mud’s life has taken a wrong turn somewhere, and now he needs the boys help to get him out of this tight spot.

And there’s a reward in it for them too, tree-boat itself.

But Ellis isn’t going to help Mud for such superficial things, he’s in it for far more than that.

He needs to believe in love, to make his life and his future in Arkansas seem worthwhile.

Mud

Written and directed by Jeff Nichols, Mud is a tricky film to pigeonhole in a lovely way as the film shifts through a few different genres along the way.

Slow burning at first, Mud dramatically and unexpectedly burns up towards the end as events beautifully set up in the first couple of acts start to play out.

But Mud is really a love story about love, and the different ways we feel about this depending on who we are and where we’re at in life.

So there’s the naive and surprisingly romantic Ellis, who wants to believe in true love to give his Arkansas life meaning; Ellis’ burnt out parents who are living in the loveless husk of what used to be their marriage; the grizzled old timer who’s loved and lost and how girls from Arkansas believe less about love and more about finding a man who can take care of them.

And then there’s Mud, played by the always charming Matthew McConaughey, who’s perhaps the most hopelessly romantic character of them all.

Either that or he’s simply the best liar.

So obviously, I loved him the most.

I guess boys and girls feel very differently about love, for guys it usually ends up giving meaning to our lives,

Once a girl gets to a certain age though, love is a luxury most of them feel they can’t afford; which is why so many of them settle for the knowing and richer arms of an older man instead.

It may not be love, but at least they’ll be safe in this vanilla relationship they’ve found.

Because it’s only the people you love who can hurt us.

I’m not sure if what I’ve just written even makes sense now I’ve read it back, it sure as hell doesn’t seem to have gone off track from Mud; which is a shame, because it’s a really good film.

Apart from reaffirming why McConaughey is still the most charming thing to have come out of southern America, Mud also has everyone’s favourite drunk Reese Witherspoon in a supporting role as Juniper and a cameo role for the man who would be Zod, Michael Shannon.

But it’s acting rookie Tye Sheridan as Ellis who’s the undoubted star of this show, playing a tough soul with a tender heart better than most actors twice his age.

If you want to know about love, and what it is about this that befuddles men so, Mud is the secretly beautiful film for you.

Alas, I can’t promise that idea of love will be any clearer for you afterwards.

Jonathan Campbell

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May 2013
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