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Florida Film Fest review: MUD

April 5, 2013
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MUD

★★★★★

If Mud isn’t the best movie of this year’s festival, it’s certainly the most instantly satisfying. Director-writer Jeff Nichols follows up his captivatingly moody Take Shelter with this little gem about love, loyalty, revenge and redemption. It’s both a clinging-to-the-past story and a coming-of-age one, filled with societal nuances and a cultural honesty on par with such Southern films as Sling Blade and Beasts of the Southern Wild.

Matthew McConaughey, in the performance of his career, plays the title character, a drifter looking to simultaneously escape his criminal past and reunite with the love of his life (Reese Witherspoon), all while hiding out on an island in the Mississippi River. Helping him are two young boys in the tradition of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer, played brilliantly by future superstars Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland.
Though Witherspoon and the always intriguing Michael Shannon are underused, they and their fellow supporting actors are all pitch-perfect and imbue the piece with such crackle that the excessive length and forced finale fade to minor quibbles. Particularly memorable is Sam Shepard, whom young Sheridan’s character calls a “worn-out old man” in one of the film’s many bits of beautiful but brutal dialogue.

Mud may not be a true five-star film, but it is the best of the 15 features I screened for this year’s festival, and for that, it deserves the highest mark. But if you miss it at the festival, don’t worry, as it’s almost certain to play the Enzian or Regal Cinemas again soon.

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