Mud seems to be intended as a vehicle for Matthew McConaughey to flex his acting muscle and further his career as a viable leading man candidate while director Jeff Nichols looks to add another building block to the foundation of his budding career. Sam Sheppard, Reese Witherspoon, and Tye Sheridan also star in a story about man hiding from his ghosts and the two boys who try to help him reclaim a lost love.
Ellis (Sheridan) and Neckbone (Jacob Lofland) are the best of friends and will do anything for each other on their quest for adventure and a shared interest in not growing up. When they search out a landlocked boat left high and dry on a small island after a major flood hit their Mississippi river town, they discover a man who goes by Mud (McConaughey) hiding out in the boat they hoped to claim as their own.
Mud convinces the boys to help him gather the necessary materials to repair the boat so he can get it back into the water and use it to make a clean getaway from a group of bounty hunters who are looking to bring him back to the Texas town where he has been accused of killing a man. Proclaiming that, while he did commit this crime, it was something he would only do to protect his one true love, Juniper (Witherspoon), from an abusive relationship.
While Ellis finds himself more and more involved in Mud's plans, he must also deal with a home life where his mother and father are near separation as well as his own youthful experiences with love and loss. As his idealistic views of life begin to come crashing down around him, Ellis is forced to make decisions that will not only have an impact on his own future, but could end up affecting everyone he cares about.
There are times during this movie that I thought it might never end as the pacing is deliberate and methodical, but at the same time is a very engaging story with characters that have real depth to them. One thing I wasn't expecting was just how good the two young actors are as they basically take over the movie and make it more about their own characters than anyone elses. With this in mind, the movie goes from being a sort of bland tale of a guy you end up not really caring about to a coming of age tale that has some serious weight behind it.
Mud is the type of movie that you are compelled to discuss long before its over even if part of that discussion involves trying to decide whether you actually liked it or not. There are a few things that keep it from being a really good movie but overall you will be satisfied with having just watched the story play out. While McConaughey falls well short of delivering a performance worthy of carrying a picture like this, the rest of the cast, which also includes Sam Shepard, Ray McKinnon, and Michael Shannon, helps to keep this ship afloat.