The Student News Site of Chatham University


The Student News Site of Chatham University


The Student News Site of Chatham University


Waiting for Intermission: Review of "Mud"


Let’s face it: sometimes as college students we do not have the money to see every movie. Most times, our only chances of going to the movies require a surprise gift card from family members. Instead, we rely on the newest releases from Netflix Instant as our opening weekend. Last week, Netflix released the Jeff Nichols film “Mud”, a film that some argue begins the so-called ‘McConaissance.’

The film stars Matthew McConaughey as Mud, a drifter wanted for killing the abusive ex-lover of his girlfriend Juniper (Reese Witherspoon). As he hides away in an island located near a boating town, young boys Ellis and Neckbone (Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland) discover him and attempt to reunite him with Juniper. The film relies on expositional tension, which can appear to drag its pacing, but ultimately becomes a powerful coming-of-age tale with an excellent commentary on space. It only makes sense, then, that this film marks McConaughey’s transition into more serious roles.

Water plays an important role in terms of setting and character. It provides one of the first establishing shots as audiences are introduced to Ellis and Neckbone, two young boys on the verge of puberty. Coupling these images are tight shots of the shacks and tiny docks making up the boating town, heightening a sense of claustrophobia.

As the boys take to the river, the quiet solitude of the river becomes a metaphor for the town itself. While gathering at a water source as means of economic opportunity entails a collective experience, the isolated nature of the river echoes the hushed lives of the citizens of the boating town, such as with the divorce of Ellis’ parents or the secretive neighbor Tom (Sam Shepard).

As the film centers on Mud, Ellis, and Neckbone, it is also about the society of the boating town. Water represents the fluid nature of characters. For Ellis and Neckbone, the fluidity comes from their status as being on the verge of puberty. For Mud, the fluidity calls attention to his status as a drifter and his mysterious composition history.

Lastly, water acts as a border, cutting off the boating town from the mainland society. This border intensifies the mystical element of the film. However, little moments acclimate audiences to the realistic setting, such as with Mud’s shirt warding off snakebites or Juniper portrayed as the princess for his St. George. Helping Mud save Juniper allows the boys to escape from the reality of growing up, paralleling Mud’s inability to move beyond his own past. Symbolism of the water adds rich complexity to the coming-of-age film, while reminding audiences that we never stop growing up, as there is always something to learn.

Fans of constant action might find the pacing slow as exposition builds tension throughout the film. However, unraveling tension more powerfully delivers the film’s message of growing up and the constraint of personal history. As a group of assassins converge on Mud to avenge the death of Juniper’s lover, they shatter Mud’s conception of reality. Since Ellis views the love between Mud and Juniper as ‘true love,’ the invasive force of the assassins shatter his illusion of escape, ultimately preparing him to accept his parents’ divorce.

If tension fails to capture audiences, the amazing performance of Matthew McConaughey will turn heads. Though audiences remember his recent Best Actor Award for his role in “Dallas Buyer’s Club”, they forget that “Mud” marked his separation from an established career of romantic comedies, showcasing remarkable variety. Any fans of the cheesy cop films of the seventies will take pleasure in the return of Joe Don Baker as he plays King, leader of the assassins.

If financial limitations keep you in your dorm and you are looking for a movie to watch on Netflix Instant, this one should top your queue.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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