Mud is the coming-of-age tale of Ellis and his best friend Neckbone. While exploring a deserted island not too far from their homes in Arkansas they come across the drifter Mud, played by Matthew McConaughey. Mud is trying to evade the law and reunite with his girlfriend, Juniper, played by Reese Witherspoon. The boys decide to help him, and by doing so, learn about trust, love, deceit and what it means to be a man.
With virtually zero publicity, I was surprised that Scott and I weren’t the only two people in the theater. I am pleased to say that Mud is a phenomenal movie. It is easily my favorite movie of 2013. This quiet film relies heavily on the acting of the two 14-year-old leads and they do not disappoint. Tye Sheridan plays Ellis brilliantly and he has the difficult task of carrying this film. Sheridan seamlessly demonstrated his vulnerability and the innocence of adolescence. Jacob Lofland plays his best-friend Neckbone. Although Lofland has a smaller role, his character brings the brief moments of comic relief that are timed perfectly to match the pace of the Film.
McConaughey is spectacular as the mysterious Mud. This is the finest that I have seen him in years. Because McConaughey is not relying on his typical good looks and charm in this role you see the depth that he can bring to his craft. He manages to play Mud as an enigmatic and sly drifter, and yet there is an earnestness that makes the two boys trust him. I love when I am surprised and delighted by a film, and Mud definitely did that for me. I enthusiastically give it an A.
My expectations for this movie could not have been lower, but I was mesmerized by this film. It is directed with a quiet confidence by Jeff Nichols, who also wrote the screenplay, because he trusted the actors to deliver great performances. Each character felt so real and so relatable that it was impossible not to care about them.
The film is delivered to us through Ellis’ point of view and for the first time in a long time, you are reminded how young 14 really is. Too often in movies about kids or teenagers, the directors and writers want them to be too precocious and worldly, and when you pair that with the fact that you have 24 year olds playing 16 years olds there is no emotional resonance for the audience, because none of us remember our teenage years being like that. Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland are amazing as Ellis and Neckbone, and the film needed them to be great to succeed. When added to Matthew McConaughey’s best performance in a long long time, Mud becomes a film with a real soul. It will be called a coming-of-age tale by most outlets, but that is too limiting. Mud is about friendship, youth bleeding into adulthood, what family really means and whether or not love is enough in the face of real-life obstacles.
Well-written, well-acted and well-directed Mud is the best movie of 2013 so far and you should go see it. A