Mud, which received a number of awards nominations and wins, at various festivals including Cannes, Sundance and Independent Spirit Awards, is worth the watch.
Curious 14 year olds, Ellis (Tye Sheridan) and best friend Neckbone (Jacob Lofland) discover a boat stuck in a tree on a small island off the Arkansas River. Ellis quickly discovers that it is not abandoned and they make haste for the shore, before the unknown inhabitant returns. Inexplicable cross marked heel prints lead towards their boat, and disappears. Pressed for time, Neckbone urges Ellis to get in, but Ellis wants to know to whom the prints belong.
His gaze is met by the image of a sunburned man, dressed in jeans, and unwashed white button shirt, non-purposely tossing a fishing line. It is the cross heeled man living in the tree-boat, Mud (Matthew McConaughey). He asks the boys to bring him food, with the promise of the boat once he leaves.
Neckbone writes Mud off as a bum, but Ellis is more compassionate and curious about the stranger and takes him food. Mud tells them all kinds of stories, like his snake-bite and the story behind the crosses in his shoes, how all he has is his pistol and the reason he is here – love.
As all stories involving love, murder, theft and deceit, heartache and disappointment are inevitable. Poor Ellis only wants to help others, but is constantly met with a punch to the face, but the physical pain doesn’t compare to the emotional turmoil he faces.
Sheridan does a good job portraying Ellis, as do most of the supporting cast, with subtle unforced performances that makes the plot unfold without distraction. The colour pallet selected, which is mostly dull shades, really adds to the futile atmosphere of Ellis immediate environment.
The story does however paint a very negative perspective on the female role within a relationship, in all cases it is the female who is at fault for the break up and heartache. She is the one not willing to commit, acknowledge or fight for love and the one picking an easy exit. This was inspired by writer and director Nichols’ personal experiences while growing up in Arkansas. “I wanted to capture a point in my life in High School when I had crushes on girls and it totally broke my heart and it was devastating. I wanted to try and bottle that excitement and that pain and that intensity of being in love and being a teenager.”
Nichols personally selected McConaughey to play Mud, even though Chris Pane was in the running. McConaughey just has that knack for playing the unconventional rogue. Seemingly without effort, the audience, just like Ellis, is drawn to him, despite what he’s done.