Complete A-Z list



Stars: Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Tye Sheridan, Jacob Lofland, Sam Shepard, Ray McKinnon, Sarah Paulson, Michael Shannon, Paul Sparks, Joe Don Baker, Bonnie Sturdivant

Director: Jeff Nichols

Despite its unprepossessing title, writer-director Jeff Nichols’ Mud has a great deal going for it, not least his exemplary use of fascinating locations in Southwest Arkansas and beautiful cinematography (Adam Stone) of the atmospheric Mississippi river and its environs.

Nichols' plotline is simple, compelling and told at a pace that enables strong performances and characterisations created without rushing the storytelling.
Mud is the name of the oddball (he lives in a boat stranded up a tree on a small island in the Mississippi) fugitive with bounty hunters on his trail, played – and very convincingly, too – by Matthew McConaughey, unshaven, sporting wild curly hair and a prosthetic denture that gives him chipped incisors.

McConaughey’s performance is given added dimensions through his dramatic interaction with two key characters – 14-year-old Tye Sheridan and his young pal Jacob Lofland – who discover McConaughey and surprisingly bond with him. They help the fugitive escape his pursuers and, in a subplot that Nichols fits in without jarring, reunite him with his long-time love Reese Witherspoon…

The storyline works well as a modern-day riff on ‘Huckleberry Finn’, in particular with Sheridan’s initially sassy and ultimately moving relationship with McConaughey. The two work very well together. Sheridan is natural and unstagey while McConaughey is unselfish as he plays to the youngster’s strengths. Loftland and the adult players (who include Sam Shepard and Michael Shannon) all give just what the storyline requires, but it’s most likely that I’ll remember McConaughey and Sheridan. And with great pleasure, too.

The story segues (naturally) into violence at the climax, a bloody shootout being particularly well staged and in tune with the overall effect of a film that is well worth seeing more than once.

Alan Frank

USA 2012. UK Distributor: Entertainment One. Colour.
130 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 09 May 2013