If his past few movies are anything to go by, then Matthew McConaughey is surely going through a renaissance period of sorts. If ‘Killer Joe’ showed what he could do with a chicken drumstick amongst many other things and ‘Magic Mike’ displayed other talents then ‘Mud’ raises the notch a bit higher and shows his capability as man-child of sorts emotionally yet capable of some pretty horrible things. There is an underlying coming of age tale, which despite seemingly focusing on the two young protagonists also colours McConaughey’s journey through the movie. Beyond the usual plot, it is this theme that endeared the movie to me above everything else and made it a worthy watch.
Ellis (Tye Sheriden) and Neckbone (Jacob Lofland) are the best of friends often spending their free time taking “expeditions” on a tributary of the Mississippi as well as the mighty river itself. Their days are carefree but things change when one day, they come upon an old boat boat lodged high in a tree. Hoping to claim their find the boys are disappointed to learn that the treehouse boat is currently inhabited, by a scruffy and muck covered man who introduces himself to the boys as Mud. He’s friendly and tells them he's waiting on the island for someone, a lost love, Juniper (Reese Witherspoon). He even offers to let them stay in his boat If they'll bring him food. While the boys agree, it’s Ellis, who finds a true calling of sorts when offered a chance to bring together two people in “true love”. Neckbone on the other hand is just along for the ride, while this is Ellis’s personal crusade. The hitch however is that Mud is a runaway and wanted by the law for murder.
The movie’s leisurely pace that unravels slowly reveals multiple facets of Ellis’s journey more so than any other character. It is Ellis that is the most invested in Mud’s endeavour and how his interactions with the others reflect his changed perspective are perhaps the most heartfelt moments in the film. The romanticism he holds as a young boy, enamoured by people and things around him is the reason he’s forced to act upon them after his interactions with Mud and the heartbreak he endures feels so real that you understand the difference between Ellis and Neckbone’s journey and growth at the end of the film.
The movie’s writing and languid pacing combine effectively with the wonderful performances to provide some truly bittersweet moments. Don’t miss this one.