Jeff Nichols’ returns with more tales of the American outback following the excellent ‘Take Shelter’ with ‘MUD’, staring man of the moment (going through his McConausense) Matthew McConaughey, Tye Sheridan, Jacob Loftland, Reese Witherspoon, Sarah Paulson, Sam Shepard and Michael Shannon. Influenced by stuff such as ‘Stand By Me’ and ‘Huckleberry Finn’ the film tells the story of two boys (Sheriden & Loftland) finding a man called ‘Mud’ (McConaughey) and agreeing to help him.
Set with a surprisingly two bright lead performances by Sheriden and Loftland (who carry the film), and a strong performance by McConaughey, this is a Southern drama which managers to stay sweat and heartwarming without being sappy. With a mystical backdrop behind it, the story is very much about old values struggling against stronger modern forces of the world. Every character in this has this aesthetic, and it continues Nichols’ value on his look on what masculinity and family means in the heartland of America. I do also like the mythic of what ‘Mud’ really is. Is he truly God? Is he immortal? – He also has a (what he is described as) ‘Devil’ brother. Spiritually there are elements here which could act as counterpart to ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’.
In other words a beautiful film (that’s not just going of Adam Stone cinematography bringing a Earth like/Humid glow to the film), it might not revolutionise anything, as a lot of the story has been told before. But it’s this sense there is something more happening here, not just from its undertones – but instead from its experience. This is certainly one of the cinematic highlights of 2013.