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In 2011, director Jeff Nichols wowed audiences with his film Take Shelter. Now just two years later he is back with Mud and even if this film cannot hold a candle to his previous effort, it is still an engaging motion picture. The acting and directing are top notch but it is ultimately the script that is unable to hold up to scrutiny.

Ellis (Tye Sheridan) and Neckbone (Jacob Lofland) are two young boys who discover a mysterious grown man (Matthew McConaughey) living on a small island. Initially quite cryptic, he eventually reveals his name as Mud and he asks for the boys help in reuniting with his girlfriend Juniper (Resse Witherspoon). But when police begin circulating wanted posters with a mug shot of Mud, the boys soon learn that this mysterious man may be hiding a few secrets from them.

When so many films today take place in large cities such as New York or Los Angeles, it is refreshing to see a motion picture that takes place in a more unique location. Mud takes place in the American south and Jeff Nichols does a great job of creating a tone that feels genuine to the setting. There are no typical southern stereotypes in this movie, as every single character is fully fleshed out.

But the most interesting character is Mud. At the start of the film, there is such an air of mystery surrounding this character that we want to know more about him. Why is he living on this island? Why do his boots have crosses on the bottom of them? Why does he have a large tattoo of a snake? Unfortunately, these questions are all answered within the first act of the film and the answers are not very exciting. By the film’s halfway point, all of the mystery is gone and the rest of the film suffers because of it. It would be an overstatement to call the second half of the story generic (especially considering how well directed it is) but one can’t help but get the feeling that this film should been something special instead of just something good.

Five years ago no one would have thought that Matthew McConaughey would be able to carry a dramatic film like this, but he is truly great as the title character. Even when we learn everything about him, Mud is such an intriguing character that audiences will be won over by him in every scene. As the protagonist of the film Tye Sheridan is also quite good as Ellis. A young man who has as much to learn about love as Mud himself, Ellis is an instantly relatable character. In a small but pivotal role Resse Witherspoon is also great as Juniper.

Despite drawing parallels to the relationship of Mud and Juniper, a subplot involving Ellis and an older girl has little use in the movie and should have ended up on the cutting room floor. Problems in the writing such as this one may bring the film down, but they are unable to ruin the overall experience. The script of Mud may falter, but its heart is always present.

Mud receives 3/4 

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