- Don’t miss it on the BIG screen. It’s filmed along the Mississippi River in a wild, swampy region of southern Arkansas where there are few roads anywhere near the big river. The photography at almost river level is so intimate with this massive force of nature that you can not just feel it but almost smell it.
- The casting is perfect and the acting is superb. Writer/Director Jeff Nichols wrote the role of the main character, Mud, with Matthew McConaughey in mind and it had to be him! His sexy mix of bad boy and innocence is irresistible, but there is much more to this role than that. He is at home in the wild, wily, resourceful and wise; he will tell you any version of the truth that serves the moment and yet you feel his innate integrity and genuineness. The fierce, blind love he feels for Juniper, played by Reese Witherspoon, has not faltered since they were kids in spite of her fickle ways. Tye Sheridan gives a jaw-dropping performance as 14-year-old Ellis, one of the two river kids who discover Mud living on an island in the Mississippi and become his friends. The range of emotions behind his often stoic young face leaves you knowing how it feels to be raised in a barebones houseboat, to passionately want to believe in true love and to watch all that is familiar be dismantled board by board. Finally, Sam Shepard as Mud’s gritty, mysterious sharpshooter father figure is truly masterful.
- It is a visceral experience of a vanishing culture that most of us never knew existed. “River Rats,” as they often call themselves, live with the great river, sustained by its gifts and accepting it’s wild and constantly changing nature without reservation. Changes in laws, water quality and fish populations as well as drainage, industrial development and channelization are all bringing an end to this way of life. On my 90-day road trip alongside the full length of the Mississippi River, I met Tommy Groves, a river rat who grew up near Osceola, Arkansas, just 150 or so miles north of where Mud was filmed. Tommy grew up in a little cypress shotgun house on stilts where the Mississippi River came and went and the family survived on its bounty. Tommy’s a successful city dweller now, but he goes to the river every day and he knows he was blessed to grow up there. You can read the rest of his story on my blog post at http://bit.ly/harperriverrat if you like. Happily, the movie treated this ebbing river culture with respect, without even subtle hints at condescension.
- It’s 2 hours and 10 minutes of timelessness. The Mississippi River has been doing just what it does today since long before humans were around to notice. When Director Jeff Nichols wanted Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland, who plays Ellis’ best buddy, Neckbone, to feel the River’s timelessness, he handed them Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn. “Just reading about the kids on the river in the late 1800s and then being able to go out and enjoy that same river, every day, was amazing,” said Sheridan according to Entertainment Weekly. As for McConaughey, he was quoted by contactmusic.com as saying, “The stage was the Mississippi river. To live there for a while, to camp out there, you quickly get the rhythm and the sense of smell and taste and humidity and weight, and how time trickles along like that river.” No matter how much agenda you walk in with, it is forgotten with the opening scene of Mud and swept away as absolutely as if you were sitting on the bank of the Mississippi.
- It’s about love – first love, idealized love, irredeemable love, unconditional love, unrequited love and fatherly love – without ever taking a step toward schmaltzy. And how can you not love that?
So – do yourself a favor, give yourself a break from all that’s going on and don’t miss this one! Here’s the trailer…