Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Mud

By Sati. Wednesday, September 18, 2013 , , , , , , ,
Let me just begin by saying Mud has the most heart I've seen in any movie this year. It's incredible that a story that is mostly based on characters talking and interacting, a story that unfolds so slowly and patiently on the screen, can be so gripping and affecting. But this is what Jeff Nichols does. His last film, Take Shelter, was also a slow-paced, very character driven tale. And while both films have many elements in common and I give a slight edge to Take Shelter, Mud is still among the best movies I've seen this year.

14 year-old Ellis (Tye Sheridan) lives on a makeshift houseboat on the banks of a river in Arkansas with his parents, Mary Lee (Sarah Paulson) and Senior (Ray McKinnon). He sneaks out to meet his best friend, Neckbone (Jacob Lofland). Neckbone, also 14, lives with his uncle, Galen (Michael Shannon), who makes a hardscrabble living diving for oysters. The two boys set out to an island on the Mississippi River, where Neckbone has discovered an unusual boat, suspended high in the trees.
They climb the tree and into the boat only to find fresh bread and fresh footprints. Realizing that they are not the only ones who have discovered the treehouse boat, they decide to leave. When they reach the shore, they find the same footprint in their boat. And that's when they meet Mud (Matthew McConaughey).

Now this could be a point where a lot of different stories begin, depending on who Mud is. But soon it turns out that Mud is essentially a sap. A sap with a very bad temper and obsessive love for a beauty named Juniper (Reese Witherspoon). Juniper was badly beaten by her lover, which lead to her losing a child and Mud killed that guy in revenge. Now bounty hunters are looking for him and he is hiding, hoping to soon reunite with Juniper and escape with her.
The more pragmatic Neckbone is not impressed with Mud. But Ellis? Ellis' attitude toward Mud is a different story. Ellis is a romantic who believes that if you love someone, everything will always be perfect. He is such a romantic in fact, that not even his parents' collapsing marriage can make him feel differently about love. So when he hears Mud's story, Mud immediately becomes a hero and a role model in young boy's eyes and Ellis is prepared to do everything to help him.

What makes the movie so great to watch are the characters and the bonds that keep them together. Ellis is not your typical innocent boy protagonist. He has actual personality and that to me was new. Whenever I see a movie and a young kid is a main hero he is always cute and innocent. Ellis is those things too, but you can also see what kind of a man he is going to be in the future.
He is basically a young version of Mud. He has a quick temper and when he sees a girl being disrespected he immediately punches the bully and rescues her. Even when Juniper is being threatened by a large, armed man, Ellis comes to her rescue despite not standing a chance in a fight. As admirable as him protecting the women is, temper like that will get you in trouble as Mud's story shows.

The side plot of the story includes Ellis pursuit after a girl called May Pearl. May Pearl is clearly an immature twit that should do some soul searching if she wants to ever has a little thing called personality but Ellis is still taken with her. His relationship with her is probably a lot like how Mud's relationship with Juniper started.
And that's another thing that makes the movie so brilliant - we have two characters, different ages, different circumstances, different girls that stole their heart. But in spite of all those differences they are also on the similar road, yet in the end they choose different paths. Ellis eventually finds out that love is not perfect but, as he did so in young age, he still has desire to look for it in the end.

Mud on the other hand is a more complex case. He spent more than 20 years lusting after a girl who used him and only cared about him when there was no one else more interesting. Mud kept going back, because probably, much like Ellis, he kept convincing himself that this is what love is and that love is eternal. The final shot of the movie gave me hope that Mud will let go and that his new love will be freedom. And freedom doesn't ask for anything back.
I was very impressed by the way the film showed us all those characters. With the exception of immature May Pearl nobody was really a bad person here and May Pearl's stupidity and cruelty can be blamed on her age. The guys who are looking for Mud want justice for someone who was close to them and died and Juniper is so used to having Mud around to protect her, she doesn't know how to let go nor she can just escape with him to live in some Utopian dream.

You really cannot blame this girl for using Mud. Everyone wants to be loved and protected and because Juniper was so used to Mud running to help her, she has tears in her eyes once she realizes it's over and she is now on her own. But I also saw a bit of happiness there - joy that Mud finally grew up and joy in the face of the unknown road that lies ahead before her.
Mud is a good guy and because his love for Juniper wasn't reciprocated, he was the one giving all the love, getting all the pain and not receiving the true love himself - the kind of love that makes you put someone's happiness first, over your own. Juniper was fond of him but she didn' give him that and she didn't give him happiness he was willing to give her. But can we really blame her? Love is not something you can control. And that is what makes it so special. We can't control when we are being born and we can't control who we love. Life and love are so amazing precisely because of that.

I read a strange criticism about the movie - that actresses don't have much to do here and the film should have had stronger female characters. I completely disagree. The story is told from male perspective but the lives of men in this movie completely revolve around those beautiful, strange female creatures. The men we see in the movie suffer for them, suffer because of them and they continue to do so because they want to be with them. Juniper is a weak woman who was lucky enough Mud fell for her, but she is shown as a good natured albeit lost person. Ellis's mother on the other hand is a strong female character who is brave enough to stand up for herself and admit that she wants her life to change.
Mud also shows a very close group that lives near the river - everyone knows everyone in the small town and it's a very sheltered community. Trust is the most important thing there. I liked how instead of portraying those simple people like some sort of crazed red necks (I'm looking at you Beasts of the Southern Wild) Mud showed them in such a positive light.

Yes, they are simple folks but they are good people and that is what matters. They care about raising their kids right, they care about their friends, they care about love and family. And when one of them is in trouble, they stand together.
I was very impressed with the cast of this one - everyone did an amazing job, even if their parts were small. It was so nice to see Sarah Paulson who is so excellent playing strong women with both of their feet firmly on the ground. And it was a real treat seeing Michael Shannon play a normal person, a real sweet guy too.

Sam Shephard and Matthew McConaughey are both stand outs but they have the show stolen from them by young Tye Sheridan who did an amazing job as Ellis. There is only a handful of actors who are this young yet they have this radiating maturity about them - it's like they are old souls and they seem to understand much more than they should at their age.
The film is beautifully shot and while watching it I truly felt as if I was right there, surrounded by nature, trees, sand, with the boys in the bar observing Juniper or in your typical motel, staring into the space. Everything is shot so beautifully, in such a detailed way it really makes you feel as if you were inside the world shown in the film. But the most praise belongs to composer David Wingo for yet again adding an overwhelming amount of beauty and rhythm to Nichols's picture with his outstanding soundtrack.

Mud is a beautiful story centered around the idea of love. Its beautiful message, hidden in the film's ending, that the true love can be found in freedom and friendship is as truthful, charming and poignant as pretty much the whole movie. Go see it, it will warm your heart.

Mud (2012, 130 min)
Plot: Two young boys encounter a fugitive and form a pact to help him evade the bounty hunters on his trail and to reunite him with his true love.
Director: Jeff Nichols
Writer: Jeff Nichols
Stars: Matthew McConaughey, Tye Sheridan, Jacob Lofland  




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34 comments:

  1. It is a treat to see Michael Shannon play someone sweet, he's usually so crazy. I thought the kids in this movie were outstanding. I kept thinking about Iron Man 3 when I was watching this, since that film had one of the worst child performances I have seen in a long time. Why didn't their casting directors find these kids?

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    1. He is actually so nice in real life, I saw him on Fallon recently and man, what a sweet dude. Such a great actor since he is able to channel such intensity in his roles. I didn't mind the kid in IM3 but those guys here were amazing

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  2. I adore your graphics and this post and... just aww. Excellent review and the film seems quite amazing. I should go get my heart warmed a bit. :3

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    1. Thank you! :) Yeah, it will do that!

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  3. Shows what type of magic can happen if you get a good cast, and give them material that's worth their time, effort, and above all, skills. Good review Sati.

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  4. Wonderful review. I pretty much thought the same. It was the first film of the year that resonated with me on an emotional level (followed by Stories We Tell and to some extent, The World's End). It was so simple but so beautiful. My heart ached for Ellis, and Sheridan's acting is a huge reason for that. I actually am a big fan of child actors (wonder if it has something to do with Harry Potter...) and I can definitely see Sheridan being in my favourite performances of the year. McConaughey was v.v.v. good too.
    I liked the score as well, though I don't know how it sounds on its own.

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    1. Thank you! I really need to check out Stories we Tell.

      Sheridan was amazing. I haven't been this impressed by young actor's performance since Isabelle Fuhrman in Orphan.

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  5. What a great review! Just added this movie to my To Watch list.

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  6. Great review! I didn't know much about this, but it sounds good. Will definitely try and see this!

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  7. I smirked when I heard Mud say "only two thing protect me... this gun... and this shirt". Yet another movie where McConaughey Takes off his shirt!! But truth is both him and Jeff Nichols did great and my admiration for them grow by the day. Love this film!

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    1. Awesome, so glad you liked it too! Yeah the shirt thing is legendary :)

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  8. Wonderful review. I need to catch up on so many films, I blame Breaking Bad and 30 Rock (and soon to be GOT).
    How was Witherspoon?

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    1. She was very good, very subtle role from her and I thought she really managed to capture her character beautifully.

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  9. You give such meticulous and beautiful reviews! I loved this film, and I personally think this is Matthew's best performance. You're right when you say it's got the most heart out of any film this year.

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    1. Thank you so much! I did prefer his work in Killer Joe but he was excellent here.

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  10. I think it's good that the movie have lots of male perspectives. Usually it's the girl who is all hopelessly in love. I think this captured the pure love from guys. I love this movie too!

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    1. Yeah, exactly. It was quite unique.

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  11. SO glad you liked this one so much. I agree, a very different, but very heart warming little movie. Everything in this one worked for me.

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    1. I know it's your fav of the year so far, right? I just really love it. That one and Take Shelter are truly one of the best films I've seen in recent years.

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  12. BEAUTIFUL review, Sati! I haven't got around to writing this but glad you gave such a high rating. I find the story to be surprisingly engaging and emotional, plus the setting and cinematography are superb. So impressed w/ Tye Sheridan and of course McConaughey! LOVE that you used this photo http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-9Lz_qLT_npU/UhwDlEuVnwI/AAAAAAAAWPw/e5RCTYmXc84/s1600/444s99.jpg Matthew looked so different (so serene) in that scene, it's quite heartbreaking.

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    1. Thank you! I really enjoyed this movie a lot. The setting is the kind of thing I like, I like how it was so focused in this small town with all those charming shots of nature. I loved that scene. It's wordless but because of their acting it spoke volumes.

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  13. "I read a strange criticism about the movie - that actresses don't have much to do here and the film should have had stronger female characters."

    Why would someone even complain about that? The dominant focus is on the male characters anyway, and you even made the point that the mother is somewhat of a strong female character. People bitchin to bitch.

    Great review! Glad you liked it too :)

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    1. I don't know, but a lot of people whined about how women were featured in the movie. It's like with racism - some people see sexism everywhere.

      Thank you! :)

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  14. Managed to catch this one in theaters. So happy i did

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  15. Terrific review! I've had a copy of this on my desk for weeks. I really need to give it another look. Though, I'd probably give it the same rating right now. A beautiful movie, indeed.

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    1. Thank you! So far it's my number 2 of the year :)

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  16. Beautiful review of a movie I absolutely love! In fact "Mud" is still holding on as my favorite film of 2013 and you mention so many reasons why. There is so much heart in the movie and Nichols crafts a really compelling story.

    I also loved "Take Shelter" and saying which is my favorite is impossible for me. But Nichols has certainly established himself and I can't wait to see what comes next!

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    1. Thank you! I loved all of Nichols's films I've seen so far. He is a terrific director and he always gets A game from his actors.

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  17. Great review, this is another film I really need to watch soon.

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    1. Thanks, this is really a great film, hope you'll enjoy it!

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