‘Mud’ Portrays Life on Arkansas Delta

Matthew McConaughey. Courtesy EW.com

Movie Review by KIRSTEN LASKEY

“Mud” requires patience. The film takes its time reaching the climax but don’t get antsy and walk out of the theater. You’ll be glad you didn’t.

The movie centers on two young teenage boys – Ellis and his friend, Neckbone – who live in a rural area of Mississippi. While exploring a small island in the Mississippi River, they come upon a boat that mysteriously wound up in a tree’s branches. They consider this to be the perfect hideout until the friends discover someone already inhabits it.

The boat’s inhabitant, Mud, is a strange vagrant who hatches a plan for the two boys to help him reunite with his lady love, Juniper, and escape the law, which is out to get him for murdering a man.

The film captures the landscape of the Arkansas Delta from the opaque waters of the Mississippi to the cracked and weathered town. While there is still beauty in both these landscapes, there is also danger.

Snakes are referenced in the movie both literally and figuratively. The literal ones are shiny, black, monsters that slither around in dank pools off the river. The metaphorical snakes take the shape of a posse of bounty hunters who wait in cheap, dark motel rooms for the right moment to kill Mud and execute their own justice.

Plus, there are the authorities who are preparing to tear down Ellis’ family home and their way of life along with it. The three main women characters in the movie also pose some kind of risk. Ellis’ mother decides to divorce his father, which not only will divide up the family but will conclude their lives on the river.

An older teenage girl shares a sweet kiss with Ellis and then dumps him at their next meeting. Juniper acquires boyfriends who are violent and volatile, and in response, Mud avenges her by beating them up and in one case, committing murder. 

With the bad, however, comes the good. Ellis and Neckbone have a fantastic friendship. The two boys seem to be an extension of each other. Their bond, loyalty and trust in each other are never verbalized, but they do not need to be – all these qualities are apparent in everything they do.

There are also the relationships the boys have with their parents and guardians. At the movie’s start, Ellis’ relationship with his mother and father is rocky but through the course of the story, their love is reinforced. Neckbone’s sole parental figure is his uncle, a bit of a slacker but someone who truly loves his nephew.

Even Mud, who is an orphan, finds a father figure in Tom, Ellis’ quirky neighbor.

In the end, it is love and friendships that save the day.

The actors do an incredible job with these characters. The two young actors who play Ellis and Neckbone (Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland) outshine the movie’s big star, Matthew McConaughey (Mud.) They breathe all the innocence, brashness and courage of youth into their roles.

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