A festival fave that Variety called “the best American movie at Cannes” last spring, “Mud” opens in limited release next week and I urge everybody to see it. Written and directed by Jeff Nichols whose “Take Shelter” I liked a lot, “Mud” stars Matthew McConaughey in the role that will finally elevate him from rom com hunk to award-worthy character actor. In fact – going out on a limb here – I predict he’ll get an Oscar nomination for Best Actor.
An adventure story that’s also a coming-of-age tale, it begins as two boys living on an Arkansas river learn about a boat that washed ashore on a nearby island and is now perched up in a tree. Understandably curious and eager to distract themselves from their troubled home lives, they set out to explore the boat – and find it’s inhabited by a strange man named Mud (McConaughey). Mud describes fantastic scenarios —he killed a man in Texas to rescue his lady love and now vengeful bounty hunters are coming to get him. He says he’s planning to go on the run with his girlfriend once he can get a motor for the boat. Skeptical but intrigued, the two boys agree to help him.
Is Mud a liar? A murderer? A crazy man? Is his girlfriend really planning to escape with him? Can love be trusted or will it always end in a broken heart?
These are among the questions this film asks over its leisurely (yes, that means long) running time, and I wasn’t bored for a second. The cinematography is beautiful. The story is interesting. The acting is great across the board – from McConaughey and Reese Witherspoon to Sam Shephard and especially to Tye Sheridan, the boy who plays Ellis (he’s fantastic).
If “Mud” doesn’t turn up on my 10 Best List at the end of the year, then it’s going to be a very good year for movies.