Movie Title: Mud
Release Date: January 19th, 2013 (Sundance Film Festival)
Date Seen: May 9th, 2013
Seen with: Eric
Part 1 – Spoiler Free Quickie Review
A movie following two boys, Ellis (Tye Sheridan) and Neckbone (Jacob Lofland), as they discover a mysterious man on the run, Mud, in rural Arkansas. The movie focuses around the boys trying to figure out whether or not Mud is trustworthy, whether or not they should help him, while also dealing with life issues at home. A lot of the movie deals with the boys and the various relationship going on around them, and we get to see relationships at all different stages and at varying degrees of happiness.
The movie has a very “real” feeling to it – ie all the characters are believable, the atmosphere is incredible, and the acting is incredible. I think it helps that I’ve grown up in Oklahoma, frequently visiting a town where my Mom’s family is from that is just like this town in the movie, in Arkansas. The town is a seemingly poor town, some people living on the river, some in trailers, and the kids just run around and do their own thing. I could totally see this town in Arkansas being the town we would go visit all the time. Because of this the atmosphere is set – you add in some exceedingly well written characters, and great actors and bam, you have a fantastic movie. The two boys who are the “main” characters are Ellis and Neckbone, played by Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland, respectively. They are both basically unknown young actors, with Sheridan having only been in Tree of Life and Lofland in nothing else. These two boys are incredible. There’s a scene where Ellis is upset and crying and having a fit and for a 14 year old boy to pull off that amount of emotion is amazing. He will be one to look forward to seeing more in the future. The character of Neckbone is an interesting one, at first, you think he’s annoying, but he’s really just suspicious and looking out for his friend, and you come to care for this kid despite his little annoying things he does (well, I found him annoying at first). Matthew McConaughey gives one of his best performances that I’ve ever seen as the titular character, Mud. He is a mysterious figure who likes to over-exaggerate stories, and so you’re never really sure which things he is telling you is true or not. The boys have to determine his character for themselves, and the audience is unsure of him as well. McConaughey also has his shirt ON almost all the movie, only taking it off once. Amazing, right? The other characters in the movie were all great, especially Ellis’ dad, played by Ray McKinnon, and Tom Blankenship, the man across the river, played by Sam Shepard. Michael Shannon also makes an appearance as Neckbone’s uncle. He was my favorite character. He has a personality you either love or hate – I loved him because of his real cool attitude in raising Neckbone, but really stepping up and looking out for him when it counts. You see very little of him, but he makes a very good impression on you. The acting “let-down” compared to everyone else was Reese Witherspoon, playing Juniper, Mud’s girlfriend. She just had some moments that were over-exaggerated and didn’t seem to fit with the character. Some moments were great, but just compared to everyone else I was kind of disappointed in her performance.
The movie is well shot, with some scenes being exceptionally pretty. There were a couple of times that Eric and I said to each other “wow, that’s a great shot/that’s so pretty/etc.” There’s some pretty obvious motifs in the movie, snakes and birds, which also allow for a couple of predictable moments since they’re obviously foreshadowed in the beginning. However, they do take the motifs pretty far in a sometimes subtle way, which was nice.
I highly recommend this movie, especially if you like dramas. You will be wondering what happens to all these characters by the end and even though the ending isn’t a perfect fairytale ending, it fits with the very realistic style of the movie.
Part 2 – In Depth Spoiler Ridden Review
One thing I loved about this movie was the varying relationships all around Ellis. They were typically in varying stages of the relationships, and almost all were heartbreaking – so that kid will grow up with some very screwed up relationship issues. But, I did like it, a lot, because it didn’t have such a perfect ending.
– Ellis and May Pearl’s “relationship” a new budding relationship, that is really just Ellis having a teenage crush on a girl we know he has no chance with her. The heartbreak comes when he realizes she’s kind of a bitch and was just playing him.
– Ellis’s parents relationship that did seem to be good once and has now just come to a breaking point. Despite dealing with Ellis’ snakebite and the shootout at their house, they still don’t get back together. I was glad that this happened – and it’s clear that at the end Ellis’ dad still has respect for Ellis’ mother, in how he talks about her, but they have just fallen out of love.
-Mud and Juniper’s “relationship”. Granted, we only have Mud’s side of the story, and a bit of Tom’s interpretation of their relationship. But this seems to be a very messed up, slightly lustful, obsessive relationship. Juniper doesn’t seem like she knows what she really wants, but does appear to actually love Mud (based on the crying scene, and her acceptance that they are breaking up). Mud does seem obsessed with her, in that he does follow her everywhere and acts kind of crazy listening to what she’s been doing, but again, everything he does is to kind of protect her and help her out, so he does have a kind of obsessive love for her.
-The “perfect” love that we only hear stories about, Mr. Blanekship’s. He loved his wife, according to Mud she was an amazing woman, but she died which just left Tom in a deep depression.
-The uncle, Galen, who has his just random sexytimes with ladies – from this though Ellis does seem to get a nice amount of respect for women, because he sees the results of what happens when Galen treats the women like shit, and he listens to what one of Galen’s lovers says to him about treating a girl like a princess.
From the beginning of the movie it was blatantly obvious that someone was going to get bit by a snake. They focused so much on that little story about Mud getting bit when he was younger, that someone had to get bitten by the snake. I was unsure of whether it would be Ellis (which is what happened, if you haven’t seen the movie) or Mud saving one of the boys from the bad people and ending up getting bit himself, but still, it was clear someone was going to get bit. I didn’t doubt that Mud would spring into action when the time actually came, but the reason I liked how much he DID spring into action was it showed that Mud really was a good person. I mean, all we’ve known from Mud, especially at the moment leading up to this is that he likes to lie/over-exaggerate things. We don’t know anything about him other than what he has told us and the tiny bits and pieces we’ve picked up from Tom and Juniper. From these bits and pieces, we do get the impression that Mud is a liar – which causes us to doubt the slightly heroic (in Ellis’ eyes) story of why he killed the man. Because of this “doubt” you have, when Mud does actually step up to save Ellis it makes it that much better.
An intense drama, that will suck you in and have you on the edge of your seat by the final scene. Great atmosphere, great acting, and incredible writing.