Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Tye Sheridan
What happens when your love becomes borderline psychotic? What happens when the closest you come to interacting with a human is stumbling on two teenagers half your age?
Well, you become Matthew McConaughey.
This is Mud. A story about two teenagers who meet a grown-up kid. The grown-up kid is Mud (Matthew McConaughey) and the two kids Ellis (Tye Sheridan) and Neckbone (Jacob Lofland). The beauty of the movie lies not in this meeting, however. It lies in the background that each of the characters brings with them. Mud who is an escaped convict (sort of) and has been dodging anything resembling a normal life, meets Ellis who wishes he had a normal life and looks around at boys his age longing to disappear into the crowd. The crowd looks cool and funky on the outside but is not in reality. That, of course, is unknown to him. He also aspires to have a girl who will go out with him and make him popular in the small town he lives in. No prize for guessing; he isn’t successful in that either.
Mud, on the other hand, has been running away for the better part of his life; either towards love or away from it. He has been fighting with the world and himself for his beloved Juniper (Reese Witherspoon). The interesting thing -and the thing that makes me smile- is not that he is foolhardy in handling his love life. No. The amusing thing is that the girl he is so in love with is the main antagonist of the movie. There are others of course. But she is the one who in her confusion of what she wants out of life has transformed a perfectly good hearted, clever, and resourceful man into a dwindling savage. For all he has done for her, Mud gets zilch in return.
This, however, is not known to the kid until the truth reveals itself. Ellis then realizes that the reality of a thing he identifies as love is not at all sweet and savory. In actuality, love is painful, takes advantage of you and leaves you high and dry. Still, people take the stab in the back and that too with a smile on their lips. Why?
The Vacuum of Emotions
The ‘adventure part’ of being outside home with a criminal and caring for him comes and goes. But the theme described above hangs in the backdrop throughout the movie. The subtle environmental takes and ‘silent conversations’ where the maker constantly asks the question Is it all worth it? Not just love, but the all-encompassing feeling of affection and social belonging. Is it worth to present all that you have in your being to a girl who’ll just use you for erasing her loneliness and glamourizing her life? Moreover, when she’s done, she will leave you in heaps to pick up your own pieces.
The movie tries to and successfully portrays one important lesson of life. The loneliest of people in the world are those that try to erase other’s loneliness. The Vacuums. They suck the evil, the solitude out of other people’s lives. They shine like fireflies in other’s darkness and become the shoulder that their friends cry on. But when they desperately want someone to hold them close to their chest and let it all out, there is nothing but a vast emptiness around them. A vast emptiness with arms stretched out, welcoming them in its grasp.
That clearly happens with Mud. He is left alone when Juniper refuses to be with him. In the end, he finally realizes that the love he so wished to have in his life was not the one he was searching for in his life. He realizes that being with Ellis and Neckbone gave him more pleasure than his so called pursuit for love. But then too he is left alone to fend for himself and find another Ellis to color his life.
However, in a way, it also happens with Ellis. When Mud comes, Ellis practically stops breathing and leaves his life right in the middle. The same old life that he is fed up with goes to the background. He starts concentrating all his time and energy on the few moments that he and his friend Neckbone spend with Mud. He looks up to Mud and considers him to be someone that he would like to be when he grows up. The confidence with which he moves and does things. The way he knows everything about everything. And the little trivia about random things –sometimes about local traditions and superstitions- might not appear to be especially attractive to us grown-ups but to a 14-year-old they are the stuff that makes up dreams.
Sadly as I said though, Ellis too ends up being alone at the end of the movie. He tries his best to alter Mud’s destiny and remove the solitude from his future. He almost succeeds too but not for his own betterment. In the process of rising Mud from his ashes, he ends up with his loneliness getting amplified with no one like Mud to guide him.
So, in the end, life goes on, and you are left with no one but yourself.
A crude and depressing message. But a real one nonetheless.
Most of all though, I liked how reality was portrayed in this movie. After watching the movie, I personally thought that the plot and the thematic elements of the movie might not be something particular to a Hollywood classic. But it is something which happens in real life.
Think of it. When was the last time you were in a war like Troy slicing enemies with your sword? Or in the middle of Gotham city fighting super villains bent on destroying those dear to you? Although relatable but hard to fathom, right?
Now imagine when was the last time you looked up to someone elder and more experienced than you and thought that you’d like to be just like him/her. When was the last time you let go of everything comfortable and assured in your life to pursue a love interest that promised nothing but your doom in return of your perils? When was the last time your girl stood you up? You can almost picture them happening right?
That is the strength of this movie. It portrays some common human emotions that we encounter every day, in minute-long-scenes, which were sometimes devoid of dialogues. A movie is not built on strong actors or strong visual effects. It’s built on strong characters and the way those characters collide. That is what makes this movie special for me.