Director: Jeff Nichols Writer: Jeff Nichols Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Tye Sheridan, Jacob Lofland, Sam Shepard Runtime: 130 min Rating: PG
Coming-of-age stories always seem to enthral film audiences, regardless of the setting or era they relate. There is something undeniably appealing about returning to the mindset of a young person and participating in their adventures and life lessons. Such a film becomes truly great when it captures the joy of youth without shying away from addressing the weighty issues often faced by these individuals as well. Jeff Nichols’ wonderful movie Mud achieves this balance masterfully as it combines a story of friendship and adventure with a lot of emotion and a little bit of heartbreak.
Mud relates the summer escapades of two young boys living on the Mississippi, Ellis (Tye Sheridan) and Neckbone (Jacob Lofland). When the two friends discover a homeless man who calls himself Mud (Matthew McConaughey) living on a nearby island and decide to help reunite him with his lost love Juniper (Reese Witherspoon), they become entangled in events that reach far beyond the scope of anything they imagined.
In typical genre fashion, Ellis provides the clean-cut yet emotionally troubled half of the duo completed by foulmouthed but equally goodhearted Neckbone. Although both young actors are relatively new to the big screen – Sheridan appeared in Tree of Life¬, while this is Lofland’s debut – the boys steer this film with apparent ease, maintaining a tone that reflects the excitement of freedom and youth mingled with occasional pain and emotional depth. Ellis’ desire to help Mud rebuild his relationship is clearly born of the unrest he observes between his parents as well as his own girl troubles. Ultimately, Ellis needs to see love prevail, and Sheridan is able to convey this prevalent theme seriously and in a way that tugs at the heartstrings without detracting from the overall enjoyable nature of the film.
Although Mud features two new faces worthy of accolade, it also stars a few weathered professionals who work to make this movie the treat that it is. McConaughey delivers a solid performance as a man simultaneously repellent, fascinating, and oddly endearing, and Witherspoon is sweet and secretive as his love interest. Sam Shepard is also enthralling as the mysterious Tom Blankenship, whose relationship with Mud is never fully revealed. The film is beautifully shot as well, lingering over the scenery of the Mississippi and capturing the wonder felt by these characters that clearly love and feel connected to this land.
The instant I find myself in a large city, I always check movie show times in the surrounding area. There are many great films that never reach a wide audience due to their limited release, and when such films are as engaging and audience-friendly as Mud, it is a true shame. Fortunately, you can catch this movie when it is released for home viewing on Video on Demand on July 16 or on Blu-Ray and DVD on August 6. Don’t miss this sweet and poignant coming-of-age tale.