Mud Blu-ray
Oblivion may be a movie that promises more spectacle than story, but Mud takes the untamed nature of Southern landscapes and uses the wild beauty of that as a marker to help tell an unusual story. When two boys (Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland) find a boat caught up in a tree on a small island along the Mississippi River, they endeavor to possess it themselves. Instead, they find themselves caught up with Mud (Matthew McConaughey), a mysterious drifter with bad teeth and a crooked grin. Mud is waiting on a woman named Juniper (Reese Witherspoon), but in this Southern narrative, love may not be as clear-cut as it seems.

There doesn’t seem to be much going for the plot, but thanks to its can-do attitude and willingness to ask its audience to buy into some strange characters, Mud works. It’s saccharine without being sentimental and it rings true, despite being filled with a bunch of oddballs. In some ways, the success of the film hinges on its smart writing and deft vision, but it also helps that the film features an all-star cast of actors, which include the aforementioned names, but also Michael Shannon, Sarah Paulson, Sam Shepard, Ray McKinnon and more.

Take Shelter’s Jeff Nichols helmed the narrative that looks at people through the eyes of a young boy who is beginning to work out that relationships are sometimes convoluted and often complicated. Unlike his 2011 drama, Mud is very much a coming-of age narrative, and thus it relies on the performances Lofland and, especially, Sheridan put in. Luckily, Lofland’s portrayal of Neckbone is rough around the edges but always feels real, and Sheridan’s Ellis shows an innate confidence and a keen ability to adapt in different situations that most young teens are unable to show, much less act out for the big screen. If you missed the kid in Tree of Life (and I don’t blame you if you did), he’s one to watch out for.

Which brings us back to the landscapes. Nichols’ is by no means the only director who has panned in the woods and on the rivers for the slick greenery, rust, and old wood that can often be found in the American South. We’ve seen plenty of this look recently, thanks to Beasts of the Southern Wild and Rod Lurie’s Straw Dogs reboot. The look of Mud, of it’s tired strip malls, it’s old houseboats, it’s fludded islands, and its scantily clad residents in the heat of summer gives Mud a setting that allows its characters to come alive. If you reside with them for the 130-minute running time, you may find yourself as invested as I did.

You can order Mud over at Amazon.

Best Special Feature: Lionsgate Home Entertainment’s set makes bookmarking easy and it comes with several bonus features for fans. Most of these show Nichols talking about the Mark Twain influence on his projects as well as his desire to create Mud for a period of years. My favorite extra was a short featurette that looked at the snake pit scene in the film. A total of 111 snakes were used that closely resemble cottonmouths in the scene. Poor Sheridan looks pretty uncomfortable in the water surrounded by snakes, but he handles it pretty well. Skip this one if you are interested in the backstory of how the film was made, but watch it if you want a fun little extra peek at the making of the film.

Other Special Features:
Director Commentary
“A Personal Tale”
The Arkansas Ensemble
“Southern Authenticity”

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