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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Mud (2012)

Mud has been described in most reviews as a "coming of age" film, and it is. However, a more apropos descriptor is "love story," though not in a purely traditional sense. 14-year-old boys Ellis (Tye Sheridan) and Neck Bone (Jacob Lofland) spend their summer days exploring southern Arkansas in Ellis' skiff. The two venture to an island in the Mississippi river, where they find a boat that had been lodged in a tree by a previous flood. They discover that a man named Mud has been living in the boat. He explains that he is waiting for the love of his life, Juniper (Reese Witherspoon). I won't spoil why they were separated in the first place, but Mud's relationship with Juniper becomes a surrogate for the relationship between Ellis' mother and father, and a surrogate for the relationship Ellis tries to form with a young woman he meets in town. Through his relationship with Mud, Ellis learns about romantic ideals and about the realities of love. He struggles with the implications of these lessons, just as the audience does. The major strengths of Mud are the cinematography and the performances. Cinematographer Adam Stone (Take Shelter, Compliance), does a remarkable job conveying the rural Arkansas feel and the thick, humid bayou setting. Sam Shepard is commendable as Tom Blankenship (a neighbor with a special interest in Ellis and Mud's relationship). His performance is restrained and profound, and he disappears into his character.  Michael Shannon is particularly good as Neckbone's uncle and caretaker. He takes a small part and turns it into a truly memorable performance. The real joy of Mud is the surprise of the end. The script appears predictable, at first--yet the climax is not what we might expect from the initial set-up.

The Amount of money I would pay to see this: $7