Tag Archives: rite of passage


Mud film posterSynopsis

About two teenage boys Ellis (Tye Sheridan) and Neckbone (Jacob Lofland) who meet a loner on an island in the Mississippi.  They are befriended by Mud (Mathew McConaughey) who is wanted for a killing in Texas.  Mud’s girlfriend Juniper (Reese Witherspoon) is persecuted by Mud’s pursuers led by Joe Don Baker. Tom (Sam Shepard) is a former marine who lives in a cabin across the river from Mud.  Michael Shannon plays Neckbone’s uncle.  Ellis’s parents are heading for a broken marriage.  One of the boys meets a girl who lets him down and he feels that Juniper lets him and Mud down in the end.  At great risk Mud helps Ellis when he’s bitten by a cottonmouth snake.  There is a shoot out at the end…


The obvious influence here is Huckleberry Finn and there are similarities to other films such as Whistle Down the Wind or even The Iron Man: impressionable boys meet a mysterious stranger who goes from a Christ figure, to a Judas, and then to a more human level.  This is about growing up and redemption.  Mud earns the boys’ affection and respect after initial wariness.  He is an ultimately steadier emotional presence than Juniper’s or the girlfriend or Ellis’ father, indeed he becomes substitute parent.  Ellis’ mother is strong but embattled by the domesticity which contrasts with Mud’s frontier glamour.  Mud comes to represent the pioneering values of constancy and reliability as opposed to the seeming fickleness of women.  He is seen as a loner who can provide salvation, the avenging angel.  In the film’s patient description of hard survival I often thought of Hemingways’ Old Man and the Sea.  There are vivid scenes in Mud: Mud’s boat is stuck in the branches of a tree.  Mud and the boys pull it out of the tree in a mini version of Fitzcarraldo where a steamboat is dragged through the jungle. Neckbone’s uncle (Michael Shannon) goes oyster hunting in the river bed, he wears Ned Kelly iron protection gear.  If the film slowed down at this point I would swear it was directed by Terence Mallick but it gets into more conventionally violent mode.  The shoot-out between Mud and the vigilantes at the end spoils the film.  For most of the story, the film is a rite of passage for the boys in the dreamy landscape of the Mississippi, more visually impressive than the pretentious fuss of Beasts of the Southern Wild but at the end it becomes predictable.  I’m often mystified by what appears to be an American addictive reverence for gun violence sanctified by the Second Amendment.  Why is the false resolution by shoot-out given such a special place?  For most of the film, Sam Shepard is like an Emersonian poet who you expect to repudiate his military past, but then he becomes an enthusiastic killer.  If you were to personify this film you could say it looks at the stars, holds a smoking gun in one hand, and drags its feet in the muck.  It would be an excellent film but for the gunfight,


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Posted by on June 8, 2013 in At the cinema, Film Reviews


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