Directed By: Jeff Nichols

Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Tye Sheridan, Jacob Lofland, Reese Witherspoon, Michael Shannon, Sarah Paulson, Sam Shepard, and Stuart Greer

Matthew McConaughey has been pigeonholing himself recently.  He's been in a slew of Southern-themed indie flicks.  Think Bernie.  Think Killer Joe.  Think The Paperboy.  While these are all distinct films, they share some geographic similarities, which isn't necessarily a plus for McConaughey's filmography.  I'd very much like to see him branch out and diversify the roles he’s tackling.  His latest film Mud is no different from these other flicks.  It's definitely a Southern film.  Anytime one of your main characters is named Neckbone, you sure as hell know you're in the South. 

Young friends Ellis (Tye Sheridan) and Neckbone (Jacob Lofland) venture off to an island near their home De Witt, Arkansas where a boat is now somehow stuck in a tree after a rough storm.  Instead of claiming the boat as their own, they find that a dirty bum by the name of Mud (McConaughey) is living there.  They talk to Mud and learn his story.  Juniper (Reese Witherspoon), the love of Mud's life, started dating another man after their relationship hits the rocks.  When Juniper got pregnant, this new abusive boyfriend shoved her down a flight of stairs, causing her to have a miscarriage and rendering her infertile.  In turn, Mud killed this man.  He's now on the run waiting to meet Juniper at a rendezvous point in a couple of days so that they can skip town and be together.  Until then, he's living on a boat in a tree and needs some help from Ellis and Neckbone to make his dream a reality.  They'll help him for a price.  Meanwhile, Ellis struggles with his parents' (Ray McKinnon and Sarah Paulson) separation and what that means for his home on the Mississippi River.

Jeff Nichols, the director of Take Shelter, has made another solid film in Mud.  This coming-of-age drama is certainly lighter fare as we don't have a crazy Michael Shannon intensely preparing for a storm that's never coming.  While I was certainly hoping for something a little darker and a little heavier, Mud is an enjoyable cinematic experience about love and what it means to be a man in the South.  The movie focuses on Ellis and Neckbone, two kids who are growing up and learning how to navigate a tough world where hearts get broken every day.  With this in mind, it's a naturally lighter film.  The film is ultimately fueled by intriguing performances and a healthy dose of comedy.

At the center of Mud, we have a strong performance from Matthew McConaughey as the titular character.  With this dirty bum who lives in a boat stuck in a tree and eats canned food straight out of the can, McConaughey gives us one disgusting yet interesting antihero. This is a guy who carries two things to protect himself, his shirt and his pistol.  He gives his character a mysterious aura that leaves us wondering how his story will ultimately unfold and what he's really capable of doing.  Beyond McConaughey's performance, Nichols showcases Tye Sheridan's acting chops in his lead role as Ellis.  Sheridan gives a piercing, emotive performance as this youngster getting his first lesson in love and the bitterness that can ensue when things go awry.  He’s learning this lesson through Mud’s situation, his parents’ separation, and his own nonexistent relationship with an older girl by the name of May Pearl (Bonnie Sturdivant).

As much drama as there is in Mud, there's plenty of comedy as well.  In particular, Jacob Lofland keeps the laughs coming as Neckbone.  This kid knows exactly what to say at the right time in the right way to keep us chuckling.  Lofland gives us the character who keeps it real and sees Mud for who he really is, a fugitive and a hobo living in some wrecked boat on a remote island.  Michael Shannon, who starred in Nichols's Take Shelter, also has some funny moments as Neckbone's uncle Galen.  The underrated actor, who will also be appearing as General Zod in Man of Steel this year, is continuing to tackle diverse roles, which I wholeheartedly admire, especially as he demonstrates his comedic abilities here in Mud.

The film does have one major weakness.  Mud is utterly predictable.  You can see everything that happens ages before it does.  It's all been done before.  It's also a little too long.  Even with all this in mind, Mud is an enjoyable film that satisfies on the whole.  Well-acted and well-directed, Mud gets a strong 0.06% rating.  Have a few glasses of Sauvignon Blanc with this one.