He’s not dangerous.
Lately, I’ve been pretty hard pressed to watch any movie coming out of Hollywood these days. There has been an overabundance of manufactured and generic appeal to many films over the last couple of years, whose aim is just to bait and switch movie goers into massively over-budgeted explosive thrill rides just to sell tickets. Almost all of them never amount to much of a plot or decent storytelling. However, every once in a while there is a film so affecting that entices me to lounge with my laptop in my favorite spot on my couch trying to tap out the right words for a review of a decent movie for once in a long while. Especially if it is a movie starring one of film’s perhaps least excitable actors, Matthew McConaughey. What’s more, a decent film about the American south that offers an exceptional coming of age perspective from two adventuring and optimistic young boys who ought to know better and a story that does not condescend to negative portrayals of the Southern cultural experience.
Ellis (Tye Sheridan) is trying to deal with the breakup of his parents and navigate the emotional complications of puberty. He is in love with May Pearl (Bonnie Sturdivant), a girl a couple years older than him and leads Ellis into thinking that he is in a relationship with her. He has a best friend by the name of Neckbone (Jacob Loftland), who is still hanging on to the last bits of his childhood innocence even when exposed to violent, adult situations. It also does not help that these two boys eventually encounter Mud (McConaughey), a vagrant on the run from suspect authority figures who pray to Jesus Christ for Mud’s timely death. Mud, when not busy keeping alive, inadvertently teaches Ellis and Neckbone the realities of love, respect and revealed understandings of adult life.
I really like what writer-director Jeff Nichols does with this movie. He is able to conceptualize the bordering realities of childhood and adulthood in all its complexities. Particularizing bad decisions by pairing these two sentient adolescents to mature between them. Each group learn hard lessons about life: whether it is Mud abiding by loyalty regardless if the woman he loves Juniper (Reese Witherspoon) may not love him back, and Ellis learns that adults sometimes lie to get who, what and where they want. What we see through Ellis’ learning via fisticuffs with May Pearl’s teenage boyfriend–or by interfering when Juniper is being knocked around by the same men looking to kill Mud– is that his idea of love is not worth the bruises he collects as a result of it.
Nichols’ Mud isn’t perfect–it turns into a spastic and even clichéd action film towards the very end, however, there is very little wrong with the film. It maximizes its potential for being a pensive and driven character story that is oftentimes neglected when trying to add too many misshaped subplots that get you lost in some of the big budgeted film projects.
Mud is a good movie that tells a believable story without the complicated and magnificent backdrops intended to distract you from it.
Art and supplementary material courtesy © 2013 of Lionsgate Home Entertainment. All rights reserved.