Review: Mud

Mud, starring Matthew McConaughey

Mud, starring Matthew McConaughey - Credit: Archant

Following strong performances in Killer Joe, Bernie, Magic Mike and The Paperboy, which garnered several awards, Matthew McConaughey's renaissance continues with an eye-catching central turn in Jeff Nichols's tender coming-of-age drama.

Ellis and Neckbone are two young boys who live on the river in backwater Arkansas, a place where the major supermarket is called Piggly Wiggly.

They go off one day to explore a remote and empty island and end up whistling down the wind when they come across fugitive Mud (Matthew McConaughey). He ain't ET, but he'll do and, on Ellis's prompting, the pair decide to help his bid to evade the law.

The latest film from the director of Shotgun Stories and Take Shelter is like a US counterpart to the British drama Broken in that it is a coming-of-age drama that has a broad scope and a number of other stories loaded onto it.

There's humour and little bits of visual poetry. Mud has a cracking first hour where the performances, the score and the directorial choices all tie together nicely.

Gradually, though, that cohesion begins to unravel and, towards the end, there are some abrupt and clumsy shifts of tone. There is also at least 30 minutes too much of it and yet, even with such a over-extended running time, a lot of characters and subplots are underdeveloped — why drag Reese Witherspoon into it, if she's just

going to be left in a motel room for most of the film?

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By the end, it has frittered away much of the goodwill it built up initially, but the trio of central performances are enough to keep it in your good books.

The kids Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland are very good indeed – engaging enough to hold their own with established scene stealer McConaughey.

In a bigger role, he isn't quite as spectacularly good here as he was in Bernie and The Paperboy but it is still hard to believe that, less than five years ago, his name really was mud; a lost and beaten man, the deadweight being helped through romcom dregs by Kate Hudson.

MUD (15)

Director: Jeff Nichols

Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Tye Sheridan, Jacob Lofland, Reese Witherspoon, Michael Shannon and Sam Shepard

Length: 130 mins