Movie Review: 'Mud' -- 3 stars
Directed by Jeff Nichols
Starring Matthew McConaughey, Tye Sheridan, Jacob Lofland, Reese
"Mud" is an evocative drama set at the precipice of adulthood, that precarious moment where harsh realities seep in and replace the idyll of youth.
It's a coming-of-age story rendered with the distinct vision of director Jeff Nichols, who in "Shotgun Stories" and "Take Shelter" established a gift for sprawling, biblical visions of life in the American heartland.
The times are changing for protagonist Ellis (Tye Sheridan), a 14-year-old boy who lives on a Mississippi River houseboat in Arkansas with his parents (Ray McKinnon, Sarah Paulson). Mom and dad are splitting up, and mom wants a new home. Work on the river isn't what it used to be.
All that's left, really, for Ellis is his best friend, Neckbone (Jacob Lofland). The pals find their way to an island, where they encounter a man named Mud (Matthew McConaughey), who is living in a boat that is magically perched in a tree.
Mud is in trouble: He's running out of food and the police are looking for him.
Thus begins a revealing adventure for both teens, who decide to help this kind, ragged stranger.
Mud's complicated story causes Ellis to question his morality for the first time, to recognize that the world is filled not with black-and-white heroes but real people and shades of gray.
Played by McConaughey with a brilliant mixture of charm and sleaze, Mud achieves a mythic stature, driving an important moment in Ellis' teenage life.
Nichols imbues the movie with sweeping shots of the rolling river, a soundtrack infused with Southern blues and the sort of wide-eyed wonder that can only come from characters experiencing the world for the first time.