You can tell when you are witnessing a serious turn by movie star Matthew McConaughey. He furrows his brow and scans his co-stars, as if he is searching for their souls. He reaches down deep for a level of depth and pathos that you always forget he has and then reminds you why he’s worked with Spielberg, Soderbergh and Linklater. Most of all though, you notice he is wearing a shirt. “This is my protection,” McConaughey says of his raggedy clothing early in this week’s Mud. “And I can’t give you that.” Yep, this is definitely serious McConaughey and we are all the better for it.
Written and directed by Jeff Nichols of Take Shelter, Mud is a slowly fried Southern feast of emotion and humanity cooked on the murky banks of the Mississippi. Set in Nichols’ home state of Arkansas, Mud risks a semi-autobiographical coming of age story in its beginning. Nichols even casts local boys Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland to add to that flavor of authenticity. Fortunately, Nichols keeps his early promise of channeling Mark Twain by crafting a story of adventure for the young eyes of his protagonists, but also one of complexity and suffering for his more knowing audience. This is about a man named Mud and his impact on a young life.