Home » Years » 2013 » Mud •••••

Mud •••••

Mud_posterStarring: Matthew McConaughey, Tye Sheridan, Jacob Lofland
Director: Jeff Nichols
Screenplay: Jeff Nichols
Drama, Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 130 minutes


Scott, we just saw Mud. The new Matthew McConaughey movie.

(Dr. Scott Allison, Professor of Psychology, University of Richmond)

Yes we did. And there was so much mud I needed a bath when I got home from the theater.

We meet young Ellis (Tye Sheridan) who lives on the Mississippi River in Arkansas with his parents. They aren’t getting along and divorce is imminent. Ellis and friend Neckbone (Jacob Lofland) rise early one morning to boat out to an island where they have found a houseboat lodged in a tree – apparently left there after a recent flood. They plan to make a treehouse of it only to find that a mysterious man is living there – Mud.

The boys begin doing favors for Mud, such as bringing him food and delivering notes to his girlfriend Juniper (Reese Witherspoon) who is staying at a hotel in town. They discover that Mud is in trouble with the law and make the decision to help him reunite with Juniper and escape down the river.

Ellis is an idealist. He believes in true love and wants to help because he sees that Mud has the same beliefs. Ellis defends the honor of an older girl that he wants to date. He doesn’t understand why anyone would give up on true love. In Mud he finds a kindred spirit.

Greg, Mud is a terrific movie that showcases the heartache of growing up. We witness a teenage boy losing innocence but gaining wisdom. He starts out trusting everyone, and he gets burned, but he also gains understanding. We watch him learn painful life lessons, especially that love and family are precious and fragile.

The movie is rich in symbolism. The river serves as both a barrier and a symbol of flight from danger. Juniper, Mud’s girlfriend, has birds tattooed on her hand and wears a bird on her necklace. Mud’s boat is airborne, perched in a tree. Hiding on an island, he is separated from the world. Only after Mud lowers the boat into the water does he finally re-connect with the world, drawing close to Ellis, Juniper, and his father-figure, Tom (Sam Shepard).

I really enjoyed this film. We follow Ellis through the childhood drama and disillusionment of watching his parents break up. He wants to cling to the idea that with love anything is possible. And time and again he learns the harsh lesson that love just isn’t enough. And that not everyone shares his core belief that true love is the most important value.

Yes, and it’s Ellis’s transformation that makes this movie special. A few weeks ago we called After Earth a nice coming-of-age story, but Mud has so much more depth and nuance to its storyline. Although the character of Mud is not the central hero, we are drawn to him. There are plenty of snakes in this film, and they appear in both reptile and human form. At first we wonder if Mud himself is a snake in the mud or if he is someone who can somehow rise above the other snakes ready to pounce on him. We are initially appalled by his exploitation of Ellis’s kindly innocence. Mud eventually redeems himself by performing a courageous, selfless act.

I agree, Scott. Mud represents Ellis’s childlike beliefs extended into the future. Mud is what Ellis will become if he can’t temper his teenaged idealism. The big question is will Ellis be broken by the events in his life or will he cling to a core belief that will turn him into a victim.

Mud (the movie) is a very sensitive and thoughtful treatment of childhood love and heartache. But it’s not overly sentimental. The children in the story are strong and independent but still naive. I’m reminded of 1986’s Stand By Me. I felt that the story and direction were very strong and I give Mud 5 out of 5 Reels. We are also witness to a dual-hero story of a pair of characters who share the same belief in true love. Both heroes follow an arch and are transformed in the end. Not only do I award Mud 5 out of 5 Heroes, but I also nominate it for our Hall of Fame.

Movie: reel-5 Heroes: superman-5

I’m in agreement that Mud is one of the best films of the year. Matthew McConaughey turns in an outstanding performance as a man on the run, and young Tye Sheridan hits just the right notes in portraying the painful loss of youthful innocence.

This is an inspiring hero story, with Ellis passing through all of the stages of the hero’s journey. He encounters a father figure in Mud, a love interest who teaches him an aching lesson, and has a sidekick in Neckbone. Ellis’s naïve view of the world gets him into trouble but also endears him to everyone around him, and the friends he has cultivated eventually save his neck. By the movie’s end, Ellis has been transformed, possessing an adult understanding of both the joy and sadness of human relationships. It’s a beautifully crafted hero’s journey.

Greg, I’m with you in awarding Mud 5 Reels out of 5, and 5 Heroes out of 5. I second your nomination for this film entering our Reel Heroes Hall of Fame.

Movie: reel-5 Heroes: superman-5

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