[8.5]Two Arkansas boys discover a wanted man (Matthew McConaughey) hiding out on an island who needs their help to find his girlfriend and escape a small army of bounty hunters. There's a resounding echo of Shane here, with McConaughey putting in another fine performance after his career-turning appearances in Magic Mike and Killer Joe last year. (Welcome back, Matthew!)
The real stellar turn here, however, is from the film’s young lead, Tye Sheridan. It’s an Oscar-worthy performance that brought me to tears, and I hope the Academy doesn’t overlook him. The rest of the cast is also excellent, including new-comer Jacob Lofland as Sheridan’s droll best bud, Sam Shepard as a mysterious recluse (God, I love Sam Shepard), Ray McKinnon as Tye’s beleaguered dad, and Reese Witherspoon as the volatile apple of McConaughey’s eye.
Mud is a compelling character piece, a heart-breaking coming of age story, and a remarkable examination of father/son relationships — both biological and surrogate. The working-class riverside setting is rich and immersive, the performances unforgettable, and the final act is wonderfully startling. I loved this movie.