People are complicated. Emotions run high during the hardest of times. As a teenager, during the hormone-development years, that statement couldn’t be truer for me. When I was happy about something little, I found a way of making it a big deal and making it my word of the week. When something made me angry, it seemed like the end of the world. How would you felt if you had flunked two French exams in a row? And of course, sadness. When you felt bad, it felt like that the world had just created an anchor and it was only going to sink you farther into the deep.
What I hated more then anything was when people didn’t take me seriously and proceeded to tell another side of the story. Lying was something I knew was around, yet had not really discovered until middle school that people could lie back. Whenever I knew I was deceived, I felt like a child. Nobody wants to be babied and told that there’s nothing wrong, even though you knew that something wasn’t right. The Story of Mud considers two teenagers as they discover just how complex peoples emotions will process when their minds are being juggled like a toy.
In the deep south of Arkansas, fourteen-year-old Ellis lives in a very makeshift shack on the banks of a swampy river along with his best friend of the same age, Neckbone. They both live very rustic lives and have fun with their environment by riding the swamps every afternoon until the last bit of twilight disappears and the twinkle of the firefly signal’s their time to go home. On one particular ride thru, they come across an island where a large motorboat had gotten stuck in a tree from a previous flood. As they explore their new piece of junk, they find evidence of a man living inside. It is when they leave when they see his fishing by the shore.
They see a tall guy who looks gritty, dirty and with very crooked teeth. The two boys meet this man who calls himself Mud (played by Matthew McConaughey). All he wants is a little food and help. Though Ellis doesn’t know much about Mud, he doesn’t see him as a threat, so he returns with some canned food. This leads to a friendship between the three of them. They find out that Mud’s waiting to leave the place with his girlfriend Juniper (played by Reese Witherspoon) and he needs that boat in the tree to do so. The boy’s also find out that he’s a killer looking to escape.
It’s hard not to compare this to Huckleberry Finn. In fact, this almost seems like a modern-day interpretation of the classic tale. Mud feels like a classic story, as the movie seems very careful in not only the setting and plot, but also with every little trinket found in the river and the junkyard that the boys are continuously digging through. It all adds to the story and it’s gritty tone.
Mud is not a story of a killer making his escape, but a coming of age tale of two boys discovering about adult relationships. They’ve seen parents’ fight and love, but they have not seen a girl who is a liar. In fact, Elis gets an older girlfriend only to face the heartbreak that shouldn’t be felt at his age. It’s hard to hear that the one you love doesn’t see you in the same way. This movie’s message is told very well; hard, but fair. It only makes these kids stronger and I think it will make the audience stronger as well.
I’ll give this five boats in a tree out of five. Thanks to what could be his best performance, Matthew McConaughey makes his character to be a humanized emotion of broken love. Mud is a fascinating tale of him and the two boys that need him more then he needs him.