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Mud - Review

Mud

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

JEFF Nichols underlines his burgeoning reputation as one of America’s finest filmmakers with Mud, while Matthew McConaughey continues his career revival in spectacular fashion in the title role.

Part coming-of-age story, part love story and part crime thriller, the film exists around the Mississippi river and also showcases two exceptional young talents in the boys at the heart of the story.

These are Ellis (Tye Sheridan) and his friend Neckbone (Jacob Lofland), who find a wanted man named Mud (McConaughey) hiding out on an island in the Mississippi that they had travelled to in order to claim a boat in a tree as their own.

Mud quickly befriends the two boys and recruits them in helping him to be reunited with his love, Juniper (Reese Witherspoon), fully aware that both the law and a vengeful, ruthless father are closing in.

For Ellis, in particular, the friendship comes at a time when everything around him is changing: his parents are on the verge of breaking up, he is experiencing love for the first time himself, and nothing is as easy or straight-forward as it seems.

Just as he has previously done with Shotgun Stories and Take Shelter, Nichols has crafted a thoughtful, slow-burning story that firmly focuses on character and the complexity of their emotions.

And while certain elements of the story stem from well worn genre staples (of the coming-of-age and crime thriller variety), viewers won’t mind as they become so invested with the characters.

McConaughey is terrific in the pivotal role of Mud, reigning in his usual free-flowing charisma, to deliver a study in suppressed love and rage. His friendship with the two boys is wonderfully played out too.

Sheridan and Lofland are superb, too, investing their teenagers with equal parts confidence and vulnerability that makes them nothing less than utterly endearing and great company to be in. Sheridan gets the lion’s share of the emotional heavy-lifting and carries it off with effortless aplomb.

There’s cracking support, too, from Witherspoon, Sam Shepard (as Mud’s mysterious mentor and father figure), Ray McKinnon (as Ellis’ dad), Boardwalk Empire‘s Paul Sparks (as one of the violent men on Mud’s trail) and Nichols’ regular Michael Shannon (as Neckbone’s uncle).

The Mississippi backdrop adds an extra character and is vividly captured by Nichols, lending the story a firm identity of its own and sense of place.

The writer-director also capably juggles all of the film’s various story elements, ensuring that the family drama is just as involving as the thriller aspects. It’s absorbing, enriching and just a real pleasure to watch unfold.

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Certificate: 15
Running time: 130mins
UK Blu-ray & DVD Release: September 2, 2013