Stuck With ‘Mud’
Ashley Jo Will
After premiering in the United States at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, “Mud” was released on video Aug. 6, 2013. Prior to watching the aforementioned film, I did not know who or what the title referred to. In addition to meaning wet soft, earth, the word mud may also indicate scandalous or malicious assertions or information. Soon after the film “Mud” begins, two adolescent boys named Ellis and Neckbone encounter a muddy situation on a nearby island. Ellis already has worries on his mind such as being with the girl he has a crush on as well as dealing with his parents who are not getting along with each other. Mud provides obstacles for Ellis to overcome as he teeters on the edge of boyhood.
Neckbone and Ellis both live in Arkansas and are quite close to the Mississippi River. The two youngsters are best friends and they spend the majority of their free time with each other. They seem to feel the most secure and comfortable when together rather than with their families. Ellis lives with his mother and father on a houseboat. He loves the location but he must tread lightly because he hears his parents bickering. Ellis is in the middle of his parents who are on the brink of divorce and he is not quite sure how to behave around either of them. Neckbone is a bit younger than Ellis and looks up to his older friend. He does not know who his parents are and lives with his treasure-hunting uncle Galen.
Neckbone and Ellis venture off together whenever they are able to get away from home life and any work they are supposed to do. Both of the boys have a propensity to swear and the audience realizes this from the very beginning of the film. Ellis and Neckbone act wild and free with barely any boundaries except a watch which tells them what time to start heading back home before they are in serious trouble. The youngsters navigate a boat toward the large expanse of the Mississippi River. The distance they are heading must be kept a secret in fear of consequences as well. Neckbone and Ellis find an amazing sight to behold on a nearby island. There is a boat in a tree which was most likely placed there by a previous flood. Neckbone and Ellis claim the boat as theirs thinking this would be the perfect hideout.
Unfortunately, it appears the hideaway has already been claimed. Ellis and Neckbone discover a bag of bread that is half empty and not moldy. There must be someone nearby. Footprints are also noticed near the shoreline. When Neckbone and Ellis return to their boat, they see a strange man standing near the vessel. The mysterious man, known as Mud, wants help from the boys. Mud tells Ellis and Neckbone, “You remind me of me.” Like the boys, Mud appears to have an affection for adventure. Mud seems friendly but could be dangerous with a gun seen with him. Ellis and Neckbone don’t know if he is merely an explorer or a fugitive on the run. Mud explains that he is waiting for a woman named Juniper and enlists the boys’ help with various errands. Although Mud does not intend to relinquish his newfound boat, the boys are told that they will receive his pistol if they fulfill all of his requests.
Ellis and Neckbone traverse the water between home and Mud’s island numerous times. They bring him food and tools to bring down the boat from its resting place in the tree. The boys’ mischief isn’t suspected for awhile but trouble arises when Mud desires a motor. Mud’s background isn’t clear at first but it soon becomes evident that Mud is in a dangerous predicament. Ellis and Neckbone are shown fliers with a depiction of Mud and are asked if they had seen this man. The boys deny any encounter with the apparent criminal. Ellis and Neckbone return to Mud and question this scandalous information concerning why state troopers are looking for him. Mud tells the boys, “I know a lot of folks looking for me.” Mud admits that he has killed a man and in addition to law enforcement, the deceased’s family is hunting for him. Ellis and Neckbone become wary of Mud but soon learn that he had killed in order to protect the woman he loves.
Ellis is inspired by the notion of killing for love and he feels compelled to help reunite Mud and Juniper. Mud gives Ellis notes to deliver to Juniper. The boys find the woman in a motel room and tell her Mud is waiting for her. Juniper seems initially interested in running off with Mud but Ellis and Neckbone discover that her love for Mud may not be the same degree as Mud’s love for her. Like Mud, Ellis fawns over a girl who may not reciprocate his feelings. The women in this film will make the audience irritated as the hope for a happy love story with any characters diminishes one by one.
Galen, Neckbone’s uncle, says that the river brings a lot of trash down it and one must discern what is worth keeping and what is better to let go. Although Galen is a treasure hunter, it is obvious he is referring to Mud. Although Mud may be a murderer and a liar, his heart seems rather genuine to the young boys. Mud’s good nature is proved later in the film when he makes a choice to save one of the boys as he risks being recognized in a public place. In a broader spectrum, Ellis and Neckbone discover the river is not the only source of trash that the world brings. Ellis, especially, feels as if the world is becoming muddy with his parents on the brink of divorce and being shunned by his newly acquired girlfriend. Whether or not he realizes it, Mud helps the youngsters mature as Neckbone and Ellis learn about life through the eyes of a man willing to kill for the woman he loves. Although the film can be slow at times and seem to drag on, be patient and you will be glad you stuck with “Mud” amid its sticky situations until its action-packed conclusion.