Jul 312013

mud-poster-jpg_222918Two boys, Ellis and his friend Neckbone, who find a man named Mud hiding out on an island in the Mississippi. Mud describes fantastic scenarios — he killed a man in Texas and vengeful bounty hunters are coming to get him. He says he is planning to meet and escape with the love of his life, Juniper, who is waiting for him in town. Skeptical but intrigued, Ellis and Neckbone agree to help him. It isn’t long until Mud’s visions come true and their small town is besieged by a beautiful girl with a line of bounty hunters in tow.

In Theaters: April 26, 2013; MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for some violence, sexual references, language, thematic elements and smoking); Genres: Drama; Run Time: 2 hours 10 minutes;

Distributors: Roadside Attractions

Directed by: Jeff Nichols

Actors: Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Tye Sheridan, Sam Shepard, Ray McKinnon, Sarah Paulson

The Mississippi River dominates this film as it dominates the lives of the main characters in this film. There is a small town, where everyone knows everyone, but most of the action takes place out of town, out on the river. The two fourteen year old boys and their families, are river people, making a precarious living from the river. Life is hard, and the poverty is pretty crushing. The people are hard-working and resourceful, but can let their circumstances get the best of them, and the film does an outstanding job of capturing it. The film does pay homage to Mark Twain; Huckleberry Finn was based on a childhood friend of Mark Twain’s called Tom Blankenship, the name of a character in this film. This film then, essentially, is a modern up-date of that genre.

The two boys are played expertly by Ty Sheridan and Jacob Lofland. Their characters are fourteen-years old, hardened and matured by their environment. I was amazed at how natural and real they seemed. McConaughey manages to look like he has done nothing but live on the river all his life. You totally believe he is living on this island.  All performances were great. Not just of McConaughey and the two boys, but of all the supporting actors too. At first you are unsure who is who in the families. They seem a little cold but as the film progresses the characters develop. All are believable. The female roles, there are three, are all strong and well developed. Reese Witherspoon shows here that she can play a gritty role. Youngest actress, Bonnie Sturdivant, like the boys, got it just right. Older actors too were great; Sam Shepard, who played his role with some depth, and it was good to see Joe Don Baker in a small role.

The cinematography is amazing, with deep rich colors, but a grittiness that helps carry the story. The river and river-life is embraced in this film. However while we see beautiful scenes of the river, we see the grittier scenes of urban decay and dereliction and waste. All well filmed.

There are many threads and themes to this film and it is unclear what will be resolved. Friendship, family, life and death, love and violence are all explored. The adult themes are not hidden. The boys have to try figure out the truth and act accordingly. The film is very much seen through their eyes. However we do see a bit more than the boys see. What is the truth? What to do? The truth is not very clear. No real judgement is made about the truth, or the characters, or their decisions. You hate some characters at some points, and feel deeply for them at others. It really is an amazingly complex film.

It was a movie well worth watching, and I’m sorry it’s taken so long to getting around to reviewing it.

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