directed by Jeff Nichols
My hopes and my gut served me well once again. Last year, when reviewing another spectacular Jeff Nichols film (Take Shelter), I predicted that Mud would be a stunner. And what a stunner it is, a perfectly sized story peopled with incredible actors doing incredible work. Perhaps most notably would be Reese Witherspoon, who plays Mud’s lost love Juniper with a kind of tarnished grace that captivates and wounds. But I am getting ahead of myself… Two boys take a fishing boat out to an island to locate the source of an unlikely tale, a boat treed by a flood. But before the two can claim it for themselves, they discover that someone has already taken up residence in their prize. As if out of thin air Mud materializes, a man on the lam armed with a catalog of superstitions and a mysterious tale filled with dark corners. A story told by Nichols is never just a story, it’s an allegory wrapped in a folktale and bound with the sinew of Americana in a way that breathes and bleeds and sweats like a tangible thing. Matthew McConaughey is riding high on the second wave of his already fantastic career (please Mr. McC, don’t go back to the romcom wasteland, ever), and Mud finds him restrained and magnetic, a natural yarn spinner at the mercy of his own bad decisions. Deserving accolades aside, credit for the success of this film rests squarely on the young and capable shoulders of Tye Sheridan (Ellis) and Jacob Lofland (Neckbone), two boys crafting and testing their view of world against the rugged and often sharp corners of reality. Nichols has done it again, cementing himself in my mind as a talent to be excited about forevermore. And while we’re at it, bravo, Sarah Paulson, Sam Shepard, Ray McKinnon, Michael Shannon. Brav-the-hell-o. One can never overstate the magic of a superb ensemble (just ask Andrew Dominik), and Mud is as much a testament to that as it is to the power of a solid story told solidly.