Matthew McConaughey is Mud. He's hiding on an island on a river in Arkansas and living in a boat that a flood or a hurricane deposited high in a tree. Two teen boys discover the boat and claim it for their own, not knowing Mud lives there.
The three develop a friendship, and the boys help Mud -- who may be wanted for some serious crimes -- repair the boat. He needs it to get to his on-again, off-again girlfriend who is living in a motel room nearby. Some bad men are also looking for Mud and hope to use the woman to find him.
It's nice to see an actor mature. Somewhere between 2009 -- when he did his last commercial piece of work -- and now, McConaughey grew up. Gone are the rom-com roles and slick flicks where flashing a toothy smile and six-pack abs are supposed to carry the movie.
He's become a mature, skilled actor picking some interesting parts. Check out the little seen 2011 thriller Killer Joe or his exceptional work in The Paperboy and Magic Mike last year.
Mud is a continuation of the maturing process. McConaughey has taken his ability to play a quirky character and amped it up. You know McConaughey's Mud is slightly off kilter. He has an edge that sets you on the edge of your seat. You know he's going to go off the deep end and blow it all. It's just a matter of time.
McConaughey is also fortunate to share screen time with two excellent kid actors, Tye Sheridan (The Tree of Life) and Jacob Lofland. Sheridan gets the most screen time and is really the film's central character. He's a young, natural actor with a bright future.
Also in the mix is an excellent supporting cast that includes a non-rom-com role for Reese Witherspoon, a rare appearance for Sam Shepard, the always excellent Michael Shannon and a brilliant piece of work from the little known but Oscar-winning actor Ray McKinnon.
Though Mud is a central character and the story revolves around him, it's really about growing up. The focus of writer/director Jeff Nichols' (Take Shelter) film is Sheridan's character Ellis. The adult in you gets a rare flashback to that point in time where you realized life isn't fair and when you didn't understand why important things in your life had to change because of decisions made by adults in control of your life.
This one is a gem. Catch it.
Director: Jeff Nichols
Stars: Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Sam Shepard, Michael Shannon, Ray McKinnon, Tye Sheridan
Mr. Movie rating: 5 stars
Rated PG-13 for mature themes, some violence. It's playing at the Carmike 12.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on DVD.
2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.