With its meandering pace, Mud embodies a Southern culture known for doing things slowly, drifting along the bayou languorously like “Beasts of the Southern Wild.” John Nichols, the director and an Arkansas native, grounds his film in authenticity through superb casting (including local teenagers), location, and a script centered on a believable coming-of-age story.
From gravel to mud to the swampy river, this feature film reminded me not only of “Beasts of the Southern Wild” but also of the Mark Twain novels, Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. And that is probably why I couldn’t really give it an unqualified rave review. Despite Matthew McConaughey’s endearing performance as Mud, a rogue of undeniable charisma and talent, along with superb performances by all the other actors, the story devolved from a neatly meshed puzzle to a predictable, almost laughable ending even with the excellent acting talent of Sam Shepard as a key figure at the end of “Mud”.
McConaughey’s magnetic, enigmatic star turn as a drifter who knows how to charm his way through almost any disaster, drives the film but is not enough to make it a winner in the current Southern and Ozark genre trending in indie films today. Only “Winter’s Bone”, for me, has that kind of storytelling virtuosity to become a classic. Nonetheless, “Mud” is worth seeing for the actors’ performances, particularly that of McConaughey, who owns any role involving an effortlessly charming rogue with a hint of danger underneath.