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Jeff Nichols’s “Mud”, A Film Review by Phil Cheney

Mud (2012) is an excellent film, excellently executed by its writer/director Jeff Nichols. I believe Nichols is at the beginning of a long road as a great American auteur in film. His last film Take Shelter, came out in 2011 to critical acclaim. I consider it the best American thriller to be released in the last decade with one of the greatest endings in film history. Nichols’s follows-up strongly and doesn’t let down with his writing and direction. Mud stars Matthew McConaughey as a charming outlaw on the lam. Hiding out in an island on the Mississippi river, he is discovered by two young local boys who eventually decide to help him reunite with his true love and escape.

I really have nothing critical to say about this film. I enjoyed the writing, characters, setting and aesthetics of the film immensely.  It can be funny, touching, heartbreaking and heart pounding, all in one adventure. Nichols utilizes similar techniques in the story as he did in Take Shelter, such as enigma, ambiguity and uncertainty of the truth. The cinematography and lighting is beautiful, with the Arkansas sun beaming through trees to warm the side of a character’s face for a vision of sharp intensity.

All of the actors carry out their roles effectively, including McConaughey, but the true praise belongs to the two young actors playing the boys. Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland make a great and charismatic duo who carry the film despite being minors. Michael Shannon, who played the main character in Take Shelter also reappears in this film for a minor role that he knocks out of the park with hilarity and depth.

If Nichols keeps up this quality of writing and directing, he could soon rank among American film giants such as Kubrick and Scorsese. He is currently in development of a new film that supposedly has supernatural premises. In Mud he seems to propose that love is the most destructive force around, and I would have to agree.

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