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Genre Mystery

Mud is a slow-boiling mystery drama. In much the same way as Chinatown, this film slowly immerses us in a sticky, intriguing and unpredictable atmosphere. Instead of a gumshoe detective hunting down an ever-widening conspiracy, we have a young curious boy and his friend, who befriend a fugitive.

The boys would have been right at home in Stand By Me, except this is really Mud's movie. Matthew McConnaughey is Mud, a charming and resourceful man, whose small town upbringing and tempestuous nature give him a fractious relationship with the love of his life and the law.

This character-driven film from Take Shelter writer-director Jeff Nichols has an independent spirit. We're tracking with Ellis, a restless young boy who wants to be at the heart of every adventure. Tye Sheridan captures an innocent and "invincible" ruffian, a rebel with a cause. Sheridan's performance is beyond his years and doesn't seem out of place opposite the likes of Reese Witherspoon, Michael Shannon and Sam Shepard.

Mud is like The Way, Way Back. The young boy at the centre of the story finds a friend in an older man, using his Summer vacation to get away from domestic strife, learning a thing or two about life and finding fulfillment in being a wing man to his new found role model.

Mud is like Deliverance. The gritty survival adventure, the impervious adventurers and the rising tide of consequence are all set against the seemingly lawless undercurrents of the riverside town. It's not as violent or shocking, but it does seem as though the characters are being slowly submerged until they find themselves out of their depth.

While the mysterious circumstances of Mud's discovery hold our attention, the film moves at the speed of mud. The pacing is sluggish, probably deliberately so, immersing us in the ebb-and-flow of this festering world. Jeff Nichols is in no hurry to reveal his hand, conjuring up naturally beautiful moments in time.

The cast are first-rate, gathering around Sheridan and McConnaughey's stalwart performance to contribute to a strong team effort. Shannon starred in Take Shelter and brings his usual best to a smaller supporting role, Witherspoon adds complexity to her hot-and-cold character and Sam Shepard delivers a tarnished gem of a turn as the roughhewn Tom.

Mud is almost refreshingly slow, investing in its characters, giving its story the time to gradually unfold from within the confines of a slow-boiling plot about a community that seems real enough to exist behind the screen. The performances are collectively strong, the writing resonates with life and the storytelling is just intriguing enough to keep us rooting for the complex protagonists.

At the heart of the story is a man wrestling with his past, trying to get it together before jettisoning on to the next adventure. This contrasts with the young impressionable boy whose future lies ahead of him. Will the fugitive escape his past and will his protege learn from his mistakes?

The bottom line: Intriguing

7.00/10 ( 1 Vote )
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