(directed by Jeff Nichols, 2013)
**** (out of 5)
> This is fine moviemaking with a great sense of time and place (the Louisiana delta in the recent past), filled with strong, subtle performances and infused with a palpable tension.
. It is the story of two young boys who find a charming outlaw hiding out on a nearby island, and begin to help him refurbish an abandoned boat to make good his escape from the cops and vigilantes who are closing in on him. ”Mud” is a compulsive storyteller, transfixing the boys attentions with his fanciful view of reality as they slowly get more and more drawn in to a dangerous situation that gets them in way over their heads. Once considered a lightweight “personality” actor, Matthew McConaughey continues his recent string of great indie choices, delivering what is perhaps his best performance yet in a part that seems highly likely to receive deserved Oscar attention. (I hope so. He earned the recognition here.)
. The supporting cast is uniformly excellent, from Reese Witherspoon as a kind of hapless femme-fatal/lowlife skank, to Ray McKinnon and Sarah Paulson as warring white-trash parents who only want the best for their child. It is a pleasure to watch the great Sam Shepard age into a perfectly calibrated character actor. The kids in the center of the film are delightfully naturalistic, speaking believable dialogue with ease and authority. (The youth playing “Neckbone” is highly reminiscent of a young River Phoenix in STAND BY ME- in fact, the whole film is.)
. The tension keeps ratcheting up to an unexpected but appropriate ending that most of us will not see coming. I didn’t- and I’ve seen over 5000 movies! Damn this was good. Add it to your list!
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