Sunday, 22 September 2013

Mud (2013) - ★★★★½

Director: Jeff Nichols
Writer: Jeff Nichols
Stars: Matthew McConaughey, Tye Sheridan, Jacob Lofland, Reece Witherspoon, Sam Shepard, Ray McKinnon, Sarah Paulson, Michael Shannon, Jon Don Baker, Paul Sparks, Bonnie Sturdivant

Mud is easily one of the best films of 2013. The performances, the cinematography, the music, and the story all really captivated me. I was enthralled with the performances by McConaughey, Witherspoon, and of course, the two young boys played by Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland. It has a real authenticity to it, just a natural charm that beautifully presents a not-so-beautiful world. I love the way it displays pretty common surroundings, but tells the story in such an enthralling way that it becomes a truly entrancing world. I'm finding it really difficult to articulate exactly what I love about this film. All I can say is that it's so good, I'm at a loss for words.

Most of the film is set upon a riverside community, which is the home of 14-year-old Ellis (Tye Sheridan). The story begins when his bestfriend Neckbone (Jacob Lofland) discovers what he thinks is an abandoned boat up a tree on a deserted Island. They go to claim the boat as their own, when they discover that it's lived in by a mysterious man named Mud (Matthew McConaughey). The two boys eventually make a deal with Mud to bring him food and help him in return for ownership of the boat. The more the boys get to know Mud, the further they delve into his story of a dysfunctional romance with Juniper (Reece Witherspoon), and also his dark criminal history. I never would have thought that the story of Mud would become one of the most enthralling stories of 2013.

This is by far the greatest performance I've ever seen from Matthew McConaughey. His character is an uneducated, dirty, philosophical, likeable criminal. We see many sides to this man, sometimes by the way he talks, sometimes through his facial expressions. He's the life and soul of the film, the spark that keeps this wonderful story interesting and suspenseful. Back in the days when McConaughey did nothing but rom-com's, I couldn't stand him! He was one of my least favourite actors. Recently, he's been giving absolutely terrific performances. It's rare for an actor to peak so late in their career, and I think this is probably his peak. Mud is the movie I'll always remember him for. I think the most masterful aspect of McConaughey's performance is the attention to detail that he expresses on his face. He always seems to have desperation, uncertainty, and longing plastered somewhere on his face, whether it be in his eyes or through the way he smiles. His mouth and jaw looks uneven, which destroyed his pretty boy image and transformed him into the character seamlessly. I can't praise his performance enough, it's "Best Supporting Actor Oscar" worthy. (Even though the film is named after Mud, I don't consider McConaughey the lead seeing as Sheridan had the most screen-time, and the film is actually about the development of his character).

McConaughey just keeps on impressing me!
Although McConaughey generates the interest and thrill in the movie, it's the two young leads that make this an authentic looking, brilliant film. Tye Sheridan definitely has a bright career ahead of him, all he has to do is maintain his natural acting ability. He remained fairly monotoned and emotionless for a lot of the film, but there were moments of masterful acting when his emotions flared up. When he gets his heart broken by a girl, man did he show some strong pain on his face. When he snapped at Mud towards the end of the film, I felt the sting of every word. The award for most natural performance would go to his best friend and partner in crime, which was played by Jacob Lofland. Every single moment from that kids performance was believable, kind of like Quvenzhane Wallis in Beasts of the Southern Wild. It's almost as if it was beyond acting, and more like Lofland playing himself... and if that isn't who he really is, then he gave the best performance in the film. There were some fantastic supporting performances throughout the film, with the best being Reece Witherspoon as the girlfriend of Mud. Sam Shephard, Sarah Poulson and Ray McKinnon each held their own in a film filled with naturally fantastic performances. In the acting department, I give this film a 10/10.

The soundtrack for the musical composition suits the film so well. There's an authenticity and beauty to it, which elevates the quality and emotional impact of the film to truly turn it from a 'good' film to a great one. It also compliments the outstanding cinematography, which paints a clear picture of the surroundings that the characters live in. There's beauty to the downtrodden, lower-class scenery in every shot of this film. Right off the bat, the music and cinematography combine to make this an exceptional film. 

My only reservation about the film is this: it never quite tread into masterpiece territory. There was never a clear moment where I was so blown away that I felt it deserved a perfect 10/10. It was close, but no cigar. With that being said, I found almost every aspect of the film to be near perfect. The story is thrilling and always interesting, however, there was one sequence that fell a bit flat to me. It was the climax of the film, where there's a group of bounty hunters with a vendetta against Mud going after him. It seemed a bit silly and out of place in an otherwise great film. 

So what's my final verdict you ask? Well I'd call this one of the best movies of 2013. So far, it's my second favourite film of the year (behind Upstream Colour), and it holds my favourite performance of the year, Matthew McConaughey. I'll have to wait and see more films from this year, but I'd call this a pretty strong contender for Oscars in a number of categories. Hopefully it gets the recognition it deserves. I just think it's great!


  1. Great review Ben. Slow-paced but you're never bored. I think Tye Sheridan did an excellent job carrying this movie.

  2. I think Tye Sheridan was phenomenal. I agree with you about the pace, yet I think it's perfect for the film. Thanks Shawna :)

  3. Good review Ben. This is what happens when you have a great cast assembled, and give them material that is worth their time and effort. Nothing more worth watching than that.

    1. Completely agree Dan! Great cast, great dialogue = great movie.