Mud (2012), is a beautiful coming of age film, with excellent character sketches, brilliant cinematography and a movie that moves in a very relaxed pace that takes it’s time to build up the story. Slow does not necessarily have to mean boring, and Mud is anything but boring. A perfect 10, to the director, the cast and everything else in relation to Mud.

Mud (2012) pic
I’ve been waiting for months, to watch this movie. Then a couple of months ago I managed to get hold of five films released last year that I really wanted to watch, including Mud. Towards the end of last month tried watching them. None worked properly, and one, The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2012) DVD; which is based on a book by Mohsin Hamid, a book I really enjoyed reading three years ago, a book that found me, rather than me finding it, and a book that happens to be among my all time favourites; did not even load (and still doesn’t). But this week I finally managed to watch two of the those five films, in one go; no pausing, no stopping, no fast forward, no rewind; in the fear of them getting stuck again and not being able to watch the rest. Mud on Monday night, and Life of Pi (2012) yesterday afternoon.

Mud is about a 14 year old boy, Ellis, played by Tye Sheridan, who along with his best friend, Neckbone (Jacob Lofland), comes across an abandoned boat wedged up on a tree in a remote isle on the banks of the Mississippi river. Soon they discover the boat is actually occupied by a convict, Mud (Matthew McConaughey) and the two young boys are seduced into helping him fix the boat and runaway with his childhood sweetheart, Juniper (Reese Witherspoon).

Director Jeff Nichols with actor Matthew McConaughey on the sets of 'Mud'
Within the first 30 minutes of the movie, I couldn’t help but feel a hint of nostalgia, reminding me of the kind of books I loved reading between the ages of eight and fourteen. The initial encounter of the kids with the convict, and him asking them to provide him with food, reminded me of the character of ‘Pip’ from Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations; and the two kids adventurous streak reminded me of Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and other adventure books I enjoyed as a kid. But that’s where the comparisons stop. For this movie is out an out a very unique and original story. There are many a movies which tend to have something common with books/films of the past; just that it’s slightly more noticeable here, but in feel good manner, without feeling hackneyed and/or repetitive. ‘Pip’ in Great Expectations is just a small child of five or six, and his encounter with a convict was not a pleasant one, and Pip providing the convict with food was more out of fear, than a genuine desire to help, unlike here. Of course ‘Huckleberry Finn’ is closer in age to that of Ellis’.

Mud has some very well etched out character sketches. Mud, himself is a very complex character, it’s hard to believe from the words coming of his mouth, what is true and what is false. Though at the same we feel he is genuine, not a bad man, but just blindly in love with Juniper. But it’s Ellis, the child protagonist of the film, who happens to be a very interesting and curious character, whose very diverse acquaintances affect him in a number of ways. His relationship with his grumbling, highly negative, father and his unhappy mother, and their impending divorce, see’s him annoyed, confused and angry. While his close friendship with a fugitive, gives him purpose, hope and optimism; and Ellis sees Mud more as a father figure and a confidant, than his own father. His confused puppy love for a slightly older teenager, May Pearl (Bonnie Sturdivant), finds him distressed and he finds it difficult to comprehend why she isn’t his girlfriend. He’s even more confused when he confronts Juniper, who seems to love Mud back, but isn’t ready to run away with him. He’s annoyed and frustrated, his whole world seems to be crumbling apart in front of him, and helping Mud, seems to be the only thing that’s keeping him sane. Even the beautifully shot landscape, the lonely isle, the river, the deserted backdrops; all seem to resonate with various unsatisfied lonesome characters in the movie.

We see majority of the movie through Ellis’ eyes. Though Mud is not a first person account, nor is it narrated by anyone, Ellis is the central character and the whole movie revolves around how Ellis perceives Mud. We never get a direct link into Mud’s frame of mind. Everything is as Ellis see’s it, with a few exceptions. The confrontation scene with Mud and his father figure, Tom Blankenship (Sam Shepard), we see and hear what they are arguing about, but Ellis is far out of hearing range, yet he can see the two talking. And the Mafia style (Godfather angle, that I wasn’t that crazy about at first), Carver family’s vengeance prayer with their contractors, is something we, the audience sees, but Ellis doesn’t witness.

Director Jeff Nichols with the cast of MUD
It was hard for me place the timeline of Mud though. Set in the southern region of the United States, bordering the deep south (Arkansas), initially I wondered whether it was set in the 80’s, or maybe the early 90’s. ‘Cause there were no mobile phones, laptops, or any other notable electronics in sight, except for a Walkie-Talkie. Of course these people weren’t that greatly well to do, but weren’t exactly that badly ‘poverty stricken’ either, and today practically anyone has a mobile phone (cellular phone), and not a single person seemed to be carrying anything of that sort. Not even the bunch of students. Not even an ipod. And casual clothing today isn’t that much different from the 80’s (or even the 50’s for that matter), just where the waist-line begins differs. But towards the end of the movie we do see a state trooper using a mobile phone.
One of the main reason it felt more like the 80’s or 90’s, most probably was because director Jeff Nichols conceived the project back in the 90’s. Nichols had wanted Matthew McConaughey to play the fugitive from the beginning.

None the less, this was an excellent film, from a relatively new director (he’s only three films old, and working on a fourth). This was my first Nichols film.
Mud competed for the ‘Palme d’Or’ at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. I’m a bit surprised why this wasn’t nominated for an Oscar, in at least one category, at 85th Academy Awards, earlier this year.
Loved it!! 10/10 rating.

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense