While writer-director Jeff Nichols said he was inspired by Mark Twain for Mud, the movie brought to mind Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations and young Pip meeting the convict in the marsh. Like Great Expectations, Mud is also a coming-of-age story. However, unlike the Dickensian classic, there is no Miss Havisham and mouldy wedding cake, or a cold and cruel Estella or a terrifying Abel Magwitch in Mud.
A gentle tale that languorously unfolds, Mud tells the story of two 14-year-olds, Ellis and Neckbone in Arkansas. During their summer vacation, the boys discover a boat stranded on the top of a tree on a deserted island — distinctly Dalian. Just as they are thinking of making the boat their special hideaway, they realise there is someone already on the island. That is when they meet Mud, a scruffy stranger.
When they get back to the mainland they see Mud’s picture on ‘wanted’ posters. Mud wants to be reunited with his childhood love, Juniper, while there are bounty hunters and the police after him.
The movie is full of failed and failing relationships. Ellis lives with his parents in a boat on the river. His parents are contemplating a divorce. Ellis is hopelessly in love with May Pearl who does not return his affections. The boys help Mud make the boat river-worthy and learn valuable life lessons along the way.
The cast is good with Tye Sheridan as Ellis and Jacob Lofland as Neckbone turning in confident performances. Matthew McConaughey is charismatic as Mud (with his golden good looks buried under layers of grit and dirt) and Reese Witherspoon does what she can with her little role as Juniper.
While the ending is a tad contrived, Mud is a good-looking piece of nostalgia. And yes McConaughey does take off his shirt.
Director: Jeff Nichols
Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Tye Sheridan, Jacob Lofland, Reese Witherspoon
Story: Two teenagers help a convict hiding on an island to reunite with his true love
Bottomline: A charming coming-of-age story
Keywords: Mud movie review