Curator & Art
I remember the day I went to watch Mud because it was all a challenge, starting with the box office. While I arrived and said: “One ticket to Mud” (Spanish way), a group next to me asked tickets for “Mud” (English way). The question about how you would pronounce that word haunted me till Matthew McConaughey said the key word in the film. And this is how you realized, if you are a Spanish speaker, how to say the title of this endearing film after coming out of the movie theater thinking: “What vision do I have from love?”
It is only Jeff Nichols’ third movie, but it seems that he has a long list behind him. If in Shotgun Stories, he told us a story from physical scars, and in Take Shelter, from familiar ones; in Mud he takes us to the scar that the first love leaves in two different ages: Ellis, and Mud.
A teenager who defends that Mud (we will never know his true name) and Juniper love each other and that they will overcome all of this, against an old man that believes they are destined to fail. And between them, the couple, that don’t get to contact each other, not even once. They both live in different atmospheres with lack of love.
The director repeats with Michael Shannon and Ray McKinnon, but he lets the protagonist to Matthew McConaughey, who knows how to uphold the role of this ‘mud man’ like if he was a figured that could develop himself, step by step through ground and water, and just with his shirt and his gun. Next to him, two young boys: Tye Sheridan (The Tree of Life, 2011), and Jacob Seth Lofland, who take their parts like a child game, and who are the life saviors of Mud.
The music by David Wingo marks our journey and takes us through the river flow to what we will believe as the end. If we add the open shots with all the nature that they carry, and, moreover, make us distinguish the different spaces that define our characters, we have the perfect formula to sit in front of the screen, and just enjoy.
To Ellis, Mud is the man he wants to become, or at least he represents an ideal. On the contrary, Mud sees Ellis as his past, the happy time when he lived in that village. Both will realize that they can’t be who they want to be, and that’s why the childhood and the dreams will end for each of them.
Ellis takes the weight of the action. Trapped between all these love visions (bitter’s vision of his parents, lovely from Mud, platonic from the girl she like, and the one from his orphan friend), he defends with acute decision everything that he does, and he forms this bond between his friend Neckbone, who, at first, reproves what they are going to do with Mud; if Ellis feels an unconditional strength to help him, Neckbone gives a rational vision of their adventures.
The movie’s title is presented in the screen inside a dark nature that we are slowly approaching, with a William Turner view, and that let us see the romantic air that wanders constantly. The love that Ellis searches for, and also the emotions that Turner painted, both are sublime and lack of rationality. Shockingly sublime is also the loneliness of Mud: trapped in the island, with no communication. Therefore, that’s why he seems so contrary to Ellis’ father, who is quiet, with a job, a family, but however, doesn’t trust in women.
Mud is a film to realize how much we have changed. Talking about change in Mud is growing as the river till it floods and leaves no island to cover. Ellis represents the change that goes in parallel to the grow of the river, as Mud tries to get his boat down and tries to overcome his relationship with Juniper. Mud is the man who knows how to reinvent in any place.
Translated by: Vicky Mancebo
You can read this in Spanish here.