Brainflow Feed

That term first came to my mind when, as a child, I’d try to say “stream of consciousness” and end up with “brainflow.” It seems to fit here.

Welcome to the ramblings of my mind. (For now, they revolve mostly around films.)

Mud

Sunday, June 9th, 2013 5:55 pm—Film

Mud (USA 2012, Drama), Writer/Director: Jeff Nichols

Jeff Nichols has done it again. The writer/director’s latest creation, Mud, is as beautifully shot and soulfully written as his last feature, Take Shelter (see the Take Shelter review from December 2011), which I absolutely loved. And although the two films’ plots are quite different, their territory is familiar; with Mud, Nichols again explores ideas of perception, and how our experiences and belief systems inform our take on reality.

Mud has also been found (by many a reviewer) to share turf with the works of Mark Twain—in particular, the escapes and escapades of two adventuresome young boys, Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. The movie is about 14-year-olds Ellis (Tye Sheridan) and Neckbone (Jacob Lofland), who go exploring in their boat and come upon a fugitive living on an island on the Mississippi River.

The fugitive’s name is Mud (Matthew McConaughey), and that fact, along with his disheveled look (complete with snaggletooth and hand-knotted hair) and freewheeling lifestyle (he sleeps in a boat lodged in a tree), not to mention his whimsical, childlike quality, almost make you wonder at first whether the character is imagined by the two boys. Mud certainly matches them—and Ellis in particular—in his raw emotion and fierce stubbornness.

You wouldn’t blame Ellis if he had constructed such a character. The boy’s life seems to be sinking beneath him, as he faces his parents’ separation and an impending move to the city, away from his beloved home on the river.

Ellis is also discovering girls. He’s got his eye on an older high schooler named May Pearl (Bonnie Sturdivant). And no matter how careless she is with his heart, it seems to belong irrevocably to her. Love and romance are lifelines for Ellis, and as he gets hit by a wave of change, he clings desperately to them.

So when Ellis learns that Mud’s crimes were committed in the name of love for his sweetheart, Juniper (Reese Witherspoon), he does everything he can to reunite the pair, even if it means butting heads (or fists and heads) with the bounty hunters who are hot on Mud’s trail. Neckbone, of course, comes along for the boat ride.

Mud is a special film that paints fairytale and coming of age with a slightly sinister brush. Its darker hues and fantastical tones remind me of several other great movies about children at odds with growing up: Where the Wild Things Are (see the Where the Wild Things Are review from October 2009), Moonrise Kingdom (see the Moonrise Kingdom review from June 2012), Winter’s Bone (see the Winter’s Bone review from August 2010) and even Son of Rambow (see the Son of Rambow review from May 2008).

The film is full of gorgeous imagery (flowing down the river; slowing long enough to linger on scrambling spiders or sun-streaked plants) and golden nuggets of truth and humour.

It’s also buoyed by exceptional performances. In particular, Sheridan, who debuted in Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life (see The Tree of Life review from July 2011), Lofland, in his first movie role, and McConaughey, who uses Mud to further his habit of delivering ever-better performances.

I saw the film with two good friends, LG and TG. As we were leaving the theatre, TG asked whether Take Shelter depicted women as negatively as did Mud. I was too tired to get into it at the time, but I’ll say now that I don’t think Mud ultimately does portray women in a poor light. Ellis’ mother is revealed to be the stronger, more responsible parent. Juniper is redeemed. And although May Pearl is no gem, we see glimmers of brighter treasures to be found.

In the end, Mud suggests the promise of greatness—in love, but also in adventure, discovery and friendship. Ellis is left with hope, and so are we.

2 Responses

  1. Catherine Jensen

    Thanks once more, Amanda, for an articulate and enticing review; I look forward to seeing this movie, there’s magic ahead!

  2. amanda

    Thank you, Catherine! I hope you like it as much as I did.

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