Director(s): Jeff Nichols
Release Year: 2013
If there’s a director that can already be considered one of the best of the past couple years, it’s Jeff Nichols. Shotgun Stories was a simple, but engaging tale of the importance of family and the destructive nature of blood feuds, while Take Shelter took a more lyrical approach to telling the story of a man slowly unraveling before our very eyes. The beauty of his stories are that they carry a significant meaning which feel masterly done, and always deliver incredible performances from his cast. Mud is no different, as Nichols demonstrates the importance of storytelling under the guise of a slow-moving southern crime drama.
When Ellis (Tye Sheridan) and Neckbone (Jacob Lofland) travel to a remote island on the Mississippi, they encounter a fugitive running from bounty hunters. Known only as Mud (Matthew McConaughey), he asks for the assistance of Ellis and Neckbone in order to meet with the love of his life, Juniper (Reese Witherspoon), and run away together. The film’s story is slow-moving, but one can’t help but feel like each piece is necessary, and even if it isn’t, it’s definitely entertaining to watch. Nichols knows how to portray family strife and people suffering from an internal dilemma so well, that it all comes off as rather effortless, especially when you have a cast that is more than able to present the emotions necessary. And when the story begins to feel like a fairy tale, it doesn’t wind up feeling as jarring and contrived as one would expect. Instead, it threatens the fairy tale structure in order to thrill, surprise, and intrigue the viewer while still providing the obligatory happy ending.