Mud is a limited release picture (so far) which I was fortunate enough to have released in my city. If perchance it is in your area I highly recommend seeing it as it is easily the best film that’s going to come out for another 4-6 months and could well be the best film released this year. It centers on Matthew McConaughey playing a would be homeless person on an abandoned island in the middle of a water moccasin infested river; a dangerous place to be sure. He’s visited by 2 young strapping middle schoolers and he immediately begs them for food. Yet, Mud is a mysterious individual and intrigues the boys who continue to help him for the rest of the film.
I won’t spoil the rest of the plot but suffice to say it deals with numerous powerful themes and has multiple extremely well done father-son relationships that contrast with each other remarkably. The film’s other message is basically “don’t trust women,” but it isn’t done heavy handedly and it’s not universal. Obviously the director or writer or someone had issues with a divorce as either a youth or an adult and this is his way of dealing with that period of his life.
This movie could have been bad for a huge number of reasons, the subject material is difficult, the acting had to be good from almost everyone, and it still delivers. The script is excellent, several of the scenes are extremely memorable and scream “Oscar worthy performance,” and the film ends well even though it easily could have gone off the rails. Even the one mediocre scene in the picture is used to tie up another loose end and teach another morality lesson; while that entire subplot is perhaps unnecessary it does serve to better flesh out the teenager’s character (who is the protagonist).
In addition to the basic more obvious thematic elements there are also very strong rich vs poor, urban vs rural, and law vs vigilante dichotomies that play out in the picture. One of the last fringe elements of rural American life is being threatened both internally and externally; but it is wisely constructed in the sense that there is no over-arching political message that the film embeds here (as would usually occur); it’s simply a sort of mournful look at the late game impacts of Manifest Destiny gradually destroying the locals’ way of life. Mud is superb, well-acted, well-constructed, and badly advertised; I can only hope someone goes to see it as a result of reading this.