Mud - Online Review

'Nichols' collection of damaged, meandering characters, have the feel of a group of people who need stories not just to live life, but to exist'

Jeff Nichols' Mud solidifies the director's burgeoning reputation as a man skilled in telling stories. Not derivative, big budget stories, you understand, but Old Hollwood-alike stories, removed to small towns, where narrative is as much a way of life as wide rivers and dusty plains. Nichols succeeds in all three of his first film efforts (this is preceded by Shotgun Stories and the excellent Take Shelter) by creating simple narratives that we can invest in, weaving characters as complicated as the Mississippi currents.

Into that equation, Nichols brings an interest in fable, legend and fantasy. It is never the subject or the main point of interest, but Nichols' view to a bit of ambiguity was there in Take Shelter and is here again. Mud (Matthew McConaughey) appears as if from nowhere, leaving footprints in the sand that mysteriously disappear. It is little surprise to read that Nichols' next film, Midnight Special, will embrace the supernatural elements of his stories.

In reality though, where Mud exists, the hints at something fantastical are rooted in the subtext. Nichols writes stories and Mud is a film with a reverence for a tall tale or a romantic lyric. Lead Tye Sheridan's character needs the romance of Mud's supposed relationship with Juniper (Reese Witherspoon), his father (Ray McKinnon) needs the romance of living on the river, compatriot Neckbone (Jacob Lofland) longs for, firstly, the boat stuck in the tree and latterly, for Mud's pistol. Nichols' collection of damaged, meandering characters, have the feel of a group of people who need stories not just to live life, but to exist, which is, of course true. This is a film at home with stories and, occasionally, in love with them.

The writer/director punctuates these musing on story with occasional flashes of delight or surprise. Ellis (Sheridan) has an almost-charming propensity to punch people much larger than he, in surprise attacks that mirror the film's conclusion. Bringing a new string to his bow, Nichols seems to draw heavily on Open Range's soaring few minutes of action, with McConaughey diving around with formative abandon and support Sam Shepard receiving time to shine.

The many elements revolve in harmony around Nichols main point of interest. It keeps being mentioned, but the director is as good as he is because he writes great characters and puts them into narratives you can invest in. This is a notch below Take Shelter, but that is still a very high notch indeed.

Mud was showing on Blinkbox.

By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.


  1. Finally got round to watching this, and I couldn't agree with your review more. I thought the theme of father figures worked particularly well in this; it's hardly a new note to strike, but the way MUD approached it felt authentic and always worthwhile. A great film that make you wonder why McConaughey has spent so much of his career prior to this making vacuous rom-coms.

    1. The further away I get from this the more and more I like it, particularly that final bout of action. Nichols feels like one of the few writer/directors producing consistently interesting, original stuff. Hope we don't lose him to a franchise any time soon.