Movie Review: ‘Mud’
In 2011, Take Shelter blew me away. It was easily one of the best films I saw that year and it made writer/director Jeff Nichols as someone I needed to keep an eye on. When hearing about his new film Mud, I wasted no time and saw it as quickly as I could and I am glad I did. Mud is a film that is so different from Nichols’ previous work but is ever bit as brilliant and satisfying.
Telling the story of a wayward man called Mud (McConaughey) who makes a deal with two teenage boys (Sheridan and Loftland) to reunite him with the love of his life (Witherspoon), Mud is a film that mainly deals with the theme of love. Obviously many films deal with love as a theme but few handle it as realistically and honestly as Mud does. Love isn’t just treated as this magical thing that makes everything better in Mud but it’s treated as something that will hurt you. disappoint you, scar you, fool you but yes in some cases even save you. The fact that love is handled this honestly as opposed to the comfortable tropes of typical Hollywood gives Mud a refreshing tone. Mud isn’t necessarily breaking new ground but the film is not taking the easy way out and tells its story with a certain honesty and style.
None of this would be possible of course if it weren’t for the performances of the actors. Matthew McConaughey continues his career upswing in what I consider to be one of his best performances to date. The real standout however are the two young actors Tye Sheridan and Jacob Loftland. Loftland provides the foul-mouthed comedy relief but Sheridan brings the dramatic punch and the early Oscar buzz surrounding his performance needs to be taken seriously. The kid brings it. Other supporting performances from Reese Witherspoon, Sarah Paulson and Sam Shepard are also great as well. What also makes Mud work is the writing/directing of Jeff Nichols. Nichols creates a living and breathing world in Mud, one that feels tangible. I live in the deep south and I can tell you I recognize both the characters and locations presented in Mud and this authenticity helps breathe the film to life.
If there are any flaws to Mud, the final 20 minutes abandon the patient and quiet tone the movie had been running on and instead chooses to become an action film almost. It feels really jarring in context to the rest of the movie.
Up to this point, 2013 seemed like a dour year in film to me. Mud is the first legitmate “great” film I have seen this year and that surprises me. However even if this year had been amazing up to this point Mud would still stand out as a fantastic work of art. The performances are great, the film is directed with a sure hand and the story is heartfelt and honest. Love may be an uncertain thing sometimes, but the feelings it induces and the power it can provide should never be taken lightly and Mud is a film that exemplifies those ideas.