2012 / Director. Jeff Nichols.
My love of childhood adventure resonates throughout this site and adventurous coming-of-age films always tap into something deep with me. They take me back to my own childhood, which was full of exploration and discovery. Now whenever I write my own scripts they are almost always influenced by my own adventures (and there were many). MUD is a film that struck a huge chord with me. It tells the story of two young boys in Arkansas who discover a man living on an isolated island in the Mississippi River. His name is Mud and his presence is shrouded with mystery. His only possessions are the shirt on his back and the pistol tucked into his jeans. He is hiding from something big and these boys have landed in the middle of it. They befriend him and he takes advantage of their naivety by having them bring him supplies. That's all I will reveal because, while other revelations aren't exactly spoilers, they would still take away much of the film's mystique. It's full of great performances none better than 14 year old Tye Sheriden who's character carries the film. Watching him on screen, with the tone of the film in mind, reminded me of Jennifer Lawrence's turn in Winter's Bone and I sure hope that this young actor enjoys the same propulsion in his career. All of the support actors are strong too with Matthew McConaughey and Reese Witherspoon lending modest performances. Michael Shannon is perhaps the most modest of all with a small, yet important role as the uncle of the other boy. Were it not for a somewhat overblown final act I would tout MUD as a perfect film. Watching it brought up memories of Tom Sawyer and its setting and aesthetic is clearly influenced by Rob Reiner's Stand By Me... it even conjured up some of the great themes from Sling Blade. With our modern society consumed with iPhones, video games and social media the kids of this generation are oblivious to the amazing outdoorsy thing around them. Creeks and rope swings... tunnels and bridges... they're all foreign to today's kids and so movies like this are a dime a dozen. How lucky we are that one has some along that's so rich and textured and celebrates that childhood sense of wonder... MUD rates highly and if I were to have a top 10 list of the year, it would easily make it. Well written, well acted and respectfully paced... damn, now I wanna watch it again.