This Southern film directed by Jeff Nichols starts out as a film about curiosity and loneliness. But once you settle in, the film surprises us with where it goes and eventually turns into a love story.
One day Ellis and his and his friend, Neckbone, sneak off up the Mississippi river and encounter a boat hanging in a tree. Thinking that it is theirs for the taking, they are surprised to see that the boat is being used as a home by Mud.
This enigma of a man, Mud, (McConaughey) introduces himself to the young boys. Even though Mud seems as though he brings trouble, especially since he claims that his gun is the only item of value that he possesses, Ellis finds him charismatic and desperate. Ellis does not have the greatest of relationships with his parents, which is why he hopes of developing a relationship with Mud. As Ellis gets to learn more about Mud, we cautiously begin to admire him as well.
Over the next few days Ellis and Mud’s relationship continues to blossom and we find out that Mud is in love with Juniper (Witherspoon) and is trying to get to her so they could get married. Ellis has similar situation in that he hopes to find love with a schoolmate. Ellis wants to fight for both his love and Mud’s. Ellis encounters some obstacles along the way because the police and a mafia family are searching for Mud.
The movie is very good for the first two-thirds of the film as the relationships develop and we try to figure out Mud’s intentions and whether or not we could trust him. Mud doesn’t lie or hurt Ellis, but there is still something off about him that makes us question his motives. The last act turns into a more conventional Hollywood climax that is heavy on plot. But Nichols does it in a way that there is still tension and surprise presented in the final climax. And since we have grown to care for these characters we are invested in their outcome.