I am not a film critic. Not professionally, anyways. I am deeply passionate about the art of storytelling through film. I try not to express more than a few sentences about the films I see unless specifically asked. I will, however, make an exception when I come across something that I simply cannot keep quiet about. Mud is one of those films.
Mud is a story told from the perspective of a fourteen year old boy from Dewitt, Arkansas named Ellis (Tye Sheridan). Ellis lives with his mother and father on a houseboat on the banks of what we assume is the Mississippi River. It is clear that the boy’s family is not wealthy as the houseboat is makeshift and rickety. Senior, Ellis’ father, makes a living by selling and delivering the fish he catches.
One morning, Ellis sneaks out early, before dawn, to meet up with his best friend Neckbone to travel up river to a small island on the Mississippi. The purpose of the boys’ endeavor is to procure an abandoned boat that was washed up into the trees on the island after a flood.
As the young boys examine the corroded remains of the boat, they stumble across a bag of groceries and discover that someone has been living in the boat. Enter Mud (Matthew McConaughey).
Mud is a mysterious, sun stained, handsomely disheveled fugitive with a penchant for exaggeration and superstition. Ellis is drawn to Mud, his curiosity piqued and heart strings tugged. Ellis wants to help Mud. He continues to make his way to the island, day after day to visit Mud. He arrives one day with his backpack full of canned goods he pillaged from his mother’s cupboard. Mud is gracious and thankful for Ellis’ friendship and generosity.
Mud begins to feel more comfortable with Ellis and begins asking him for help to communicate with his (Mud’s) estranged girlfriend, Juniper (Reese Witherspoon). Ellis is happy to oblige, after all, Mud says the crimes he committed were done so in the name of undying love.
After a violent encounter with a dangerous stranger while trying to covertly deliver Mud’s message to Juniper, Ellis begins to realize the gravity of the situation he has allowed himself to be thrown into. Despite the ever-present looming threat of peril, Ellis persists with this love fueled mission. He continues to clandestinely deliver messages to Juniper and acts as accomplice in a failed attempt to bring Juniper and Mud together.
In the story of Mud, Ellis is the picture of pure hearted self-sacrifice. The child is mature and strong beyond his years, yet balanced with an innocent, boyish charm. The hope and desperation he carries in his own heart for love to survive and conquer all is compelling and brave.
I so love this story because of the raw emotion it evokes. It is heartbreaking and hopeful in one breath.
Mud is a beautifully poignant film, and easily one of the greatest I have seen yet.
You can view the trailer here: