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Magnetic performances by Matthew McConaughey and Reese Witherspoon highlight this richly drawn coming-of-age story. After two boys discover a mysterious outlaw named Mud hiding on a deserted island in the Mississippi River, they embark on a dangerous, life-changing odyssey to reunite Mud with his long-lost love
Rotten Tomatoes Movie Reviews
- Reviews Counted: 168
- Fresh: 164
- Rotten: 4
- Average Rating: 7.9/10
Top Critics' Reviews
Fresh: Glorious vision of youth and truth, love and loss, your name is Mud.
Fresh: Nichols has a strong feeling for the tactility of natural elements-water, wood, terrain, weather.
Fresh: An evocative highlight of the American movie year so far.
Fresh: For at least three-quarters of the way, this is a fine film, and one that kids and parents could see together.
A GRIPPING SOUTHERN DRAMA FULL OF RICH PERFORMANCES
Over the past few years, Matthew McConaughey has really been stepping up his game as an actor, starring in a number of surprisingly terrific flicks ranging from mainstream ("The Lincoln Lawyer," "Magic Mike") to independent ("Bernie," "Killer Joe"). But of the two categories, it seems like where he most shines is in the indie genre, and that couldn't be more apparent than in "Mud," a classic coming-of-age drama set on the banks of the great Mississippi River. Boosted by a truly terrific supporting cast, McConaughey delivers what may just be his most memorable performance to date. We follow two teenage boys, Ellis (Tye Sheridan) and his friend Neckbone (Jacob Lofland), as they come across a mysterious fugitive simply known as Mud (McConaughey) hiding out on a river island. He tells the boys several tall tales about his life, including how he once killed a man in Texas and that vengeful bounty hunters are coming to get him, even though he only acted out of passion to protect Juniper (Reese Witherspoon), the true love of his life. He says he's planning to meet and escape with Juniper, who's waiting for him in town, but can't contact her without the high risk of getting caught. Skeptical but intrigued, Ellis and Neckbone reluctantly agree to help Mud. But it isn't long until the man's tall tales suddenly come to life and their town is besieged by bounty hunters out for blood. Writer-director Jeff Nichols takes us through this fable-like story in a way that solidly harkens back to Huckleberry Finn, with the film mainly taking place on the waterways of rural Arkansas. Cinematographer Adam Stone gorgeously captures the picturesque settings, as well as the expressive faces of the actors, who all bring their own unique touch to the characters. Sheridan and Lofland are excellent in the lead roles, which are pretty demanding as these two teens are forced to grow up fairly quickly as this film progresses. Sheridan, in particular, is genuinely compelling as Ellis, an ordinary 14-year-old who's found himself in the middle of an extraordinarily complicated and even deadly situation. There isn't one scene that goes by where his dialogue isn't believable and the emotions on his face aren't visibly sincere. It's just a terrific performance all around, and a remarkable breakout role for Sheridan. Meanwhile, McConaughey and Witherspoon fully dive into their much flashier characters, constantly surprising us with intriguing details that take these people in all sorts of crazy, unexpected directions. Of course, it's a given that McConaughey steals nearly every scene he's in, and with his natural Southern drawl and shadowy charisma, why wouldn't he? He's just able to sink so well into the mysterious role of Mud that you can hardly even tell the difference between the actor and his character most of the time. Witherspoon also shines in her few gripping scenes as Juniper, and while she never quite manages to leave the same emotional impact as her co-stars, we at least get to see a dramatic side to her that's rarely ever been seen before. As for the rest of this film's cast, which includes Sam Shepard and Michael Shannon, they're all smartly underused in a series of interesting roles that add to the quiet mystery of the town in which the story is set. Speaking of which, the story, despite its effectively rhythmic atmosphere and engaging set-up, does suffer from a few slight issues that are certainly worth mentioning. For one, there's the movie's slow, meandering pace, which can simply make it a bit difficult to keep a consistent-enough focus on what's going on at times. Additionally, the narrative is unnecessarily drawn out by a number of side plots that add texture to the characters and help build up the suspense for a violent climactic sequence, but not much else. But in the end, those are just small nitpicks concerning what is otherwise one of the most rewarding films I've experienced this year. Thanks to Nichols's sensitive, keen direction, Stone's beautifully scenic cinematography, and a cast full of genuine talents, "Mud" is an astonishingly realistic drama that solidly acts as a moving exploration into the nature of manhood and adolescence. Each individual character is richly developed and full of life, the old-fashioned storytelling is both nostalgic and deeply heartfelt in the way it harkens back to the Mississippi lore of Mark Twain, and the mesmerizing visuals are a perfect complement to the flick's Southern soundtrack. Even with its flaws, this is modern American cinema at its very best, and I truly can't recommend it enough. If you love well-acted, impeccably filmed dramas, give this film a watch. You won't be disappointed.
…someone made a real movie.
As a southerner living overseas it was refreshing to see southern culture portrayed nuanced, sensitive and complex. Best Mac performance yet.