Sundance Journal: ‘Mud’

‘Mud’ picked up a lot of buzz when it was previously screened at Cannes. Well, it turns out that the buzz was well-founded.

Matthew McConaughey has been having a bit of a career resurgence of late. He continues that comeback by playing the title character in ‘Mud’. Yes, his name is literally Mud. Mud is a wanted man, confused and torn by love.

Someone else in this movie is just as baffled by love. His name is Ellis (Tye Sheridan). Ellis is young, but believes in true love. He’s naïve in that he’s never experienced an actual relationship, which is why he’s caught completely off guard when he finds out that his dad and mom are having problems. This wasn’t supposed to happen. That’s where Mud comes in.

Ellis and his best friend Neckbone (Jacob Lofland) live on the Mississippi River. They constantly explore new places. On an island in the river, the boys happen upon a boat wedged in the canopy of a couple large trees. Put there by a flood, the waters have now receded, leaving it floating in the sky.

That’s where the boys meet Mud. He’s a stranger who simply appears. He’s dirty, and obsessed with good luck charms. The boys instantly take to him, hoping to help him repair the boat.

What could’ve been just another “Kids Meet a Wise Stranger” movie turns into something more at the hands of accomplished director Jeff Nichols (‘Take Shelter’). Nichols doesn’t speed through the story or its complex relationships. Instead, he lets them play out. Love isn’t as simple as Ellis thinks it is. It’s a complex emotion full of undercurrents and exceptions.

Like ‘The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete’, ‘Mud’ surges because of its two young leads. McConaughey is really terrific as Mud, but even he can’t take away from the performances that Sheridan and Lofland pull off. You may remember Sheridan as one of the young boys from ‘The Tree of Life’. He showed a lot of promise there, and really delivers here.

‘Mud’ has already been picked up for distribution and a rating certification. It should be released soon, so keep an eye out for it.

Rating: ★★★★☆

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