Somewhere in the midst of summer blockbuster releases is a quiet film that just might be worth changing your schedule to see…changing your schedule that is, to a non-prime time theater experience, as this gem finds itself being screened at 11am and 5pm here in Nevada County, making room for bigger dollar draws, like Hangover III and Fast and Furious 6.
Mud has a 99% rating with Rotten Tomatoes, the review site where the film Lincoln received 83%. But that isn’t why I changed my dinner plans and persuaded other friends to do the same—Mud held a promise for a wonderful combination of talented star power, an intriguing script and homage to a great work of American literature, Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Mud kept all promises and beyond this surprised me with a wonderful parallel of modern Southern life along the Mississippi.
Nichols draws powerful performances from Matthey McConaughey, Sam Shepard and Reese Witherspoon, but just like with Hick Finn, the story really is told through two river rats, Ellis and Neckbone, played by young actors Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland, respectively. The imagery and sensibility are potent and gothic in a way unique to the South—everything dark and primeval seems to percolate right to the surface of the swirling, muddy Mississippi.
Mud is a questionable character the boys find on a remote island. He engages the two youngsters in various ways, as they learn his past, his future becomes entangled with their own. In the midst of the turmoil, Ellis’ whole life seems to be collapsing and at the crux of this moment, he finds his way into the mysterious and baffling realm of teen romance.
Cinematographer Adam Stone seems to relish offering visual contrasts of colliding emotional and physical realities, catching us between the world of the Mississippi and turgid Southern small-town life. There is one sequence where Ellis, determined to do what is right, urgently navigates highway traffic on a dirt bike, hair blowing in the wind, his jaw set, as SUVs hurtle past him. So vulnerable, yet willing to take the risk…a visual allegory for many moments in a meaningful life.
Check local times and if you can, see this film. The blockbusters will roll on this summer like the mighty Mississippi, but this sweet sliver of well-crafted cinema will slip by without careful attention.