MUD--Written and Directed by Jeff Nichols/Starring Matthew McConaughey, Tye Sheridan, Jacob Lofland, Sam Shepard/with strong performances by Ray McKinnon, Sarah Paulson and Reese Witherspoon/2 hr 10 min/PG-13
Bifocal Review written by Ageless1der, Barbara Rich & The Other Guy
(B) Shades of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. I really enjoyed this film. It got to the heart of young boys’ adventures, first loves and the onset of puberty. Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland gave stunning performances as the young boys. Matthew McConaughey felt very comfortable in the role of a river fugitive who befriends the boys. The panoramic views of the muddy Mississippi were gorgeous. Seeing the riverboats on the Mississippi made me long for the simple, unencumbered river life. I was particularly moved by the sub-story of two boys’ hunger for knowledge and their relentless pursuit of action, based upon the gauge of “it’s the right thing to do.” Sometimes responding from this gut feeling led to getting a black eye. Sometimes the other guy got the black eye. Yet, this pursuit was powerful and nonchalant in the lives of these boys. This film was marvelous in its simplicity and the supporting roles were also cast (and performed) very well. I don’t want to overrate a film at the start of the movie-going year, so I give this film 3 ¼ binoculars.
(OG) The comparison to Huckleberry Finn was probably very intentional, but even if it weren’t I couldn’t help but make the link from the very beginning of this film. Like the Huck saga, this was a very simple story with a lot of layers. In fact, beyond the suspense and intrigue was a romance, echoed by another romance, echoed by third and fourth. For me, the character studies, and the thematic dissections that orbited around a non-judgmental look at the power of love (at all familial and non-familial levels) made the layering much more interesting. I also appreciated that when it came to driving the plot and sub-plots, good storytelling was the catalyst. From the salvaging of a boat, stuck in the trees, to a history of snake bites, the viewer was given clues all along the way, like breadcrumbs or footprints on the beach, that lead to a satisfactory and non-contrived resolution of all the layers. I also loved this perfectly cast, perfectly acted, story driven gem. I give it a four.