Mud (2012) Directed by Jeff Nichols. With Matthew McConaughey, Tye Sheridan, Reese Witherspoon, Jacob Lofland, Sarah Paulson, Sam Shepard, Michael Shannon, Paul Sparks and Joe Don Baker.
Writer/director Jeff Nichols follows up 2011’s impressive ‘Take Shelter’ with yet another beautifully crafted and resonant piece of drama that explores themes of innocence and friendship.
Starring the recently reborn Matthew McConuaghey as title character ‘Mud’, the film centres on two young Arkansas boys whose chance discovery leads to a coming of age drama of sorts. Sharing similarities with the likes of Rob Reiner’s ‘Stand by Me‘ or further back, Bryan Forbes’ 1961 classic ‘Whistle Down the Wind‘ – Nichols’ film is touching for the raw beauty of the performances and it’s ‘Malick-esque’ cinematography.
Nichols’ ability to frame nature and all it’s surrounding beauty is further served by an array of faultless portrayals. As the two boys, ‘Ellis’ and ‘Neckbone’, Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland are nothing short of a revelation, both fully displaying some of that early River Phoenix transcendence that was so tragically cut short.
In keeping with his recent turn in William Friedkin’s ‘Killer Joe’, Matthew McConaughey once again demonstrates just what a hypnotic screen presence he is. Deftness of touch and movie star charm, McConaughey has the full range. His performance here is nothing less than utterly outstanding. His interaction with the boys is something to behold and through it, the film breathes.
Tonally, Nichols’ film shares many similarities with the classic western. There’s the slow burn, gradual build with nature and all it’s beauty acting as the perfect movie set. Of course, there are other similarities, but that would be to give too much away and the joy of any cinema experience is in the not knowing. Trust me, ‘Mud’ is a beautifully made film with the best of intentions. Nichols is carving out a great early body of work and has to be regarded as one of the most genuinely exciting young film-makers working today. 5/5