Blog Directory CineVerse: Matthew makes his mark

Matthew makes his mark

Thursday, September 19, 2019

The year 2012 was a pretty strong one for movies: Consider that "Lincoln," "Argo," "Django Unchained," "Zero Dark Thirty," "Moonrise Kingdom," and "Silver Linings Playbook" were all released in that memorable year. But another quality flick from 2012 that often gets lost in the shuffle is "Mud," a quality coming-of-age film starring Matthew McConaughey. Yesterday at CineVerse, we stepped into the "Mud" to uncover its truths. Here's what we found:

What did you find unexpected, intriguing, or refreshing about Mud?

  • It arguably stands as Matthew McConaughey’s breakout and best film – one that establishes him as more than a pretty face or character actor and as a legit acting force.
  • It gives us a privileged insight into the world of adolescents; this is really more the story of Ellis than Mud.
  • The child performances are very good; the casting of Ty Sheridan and Jacob Lofland is inspired.
  • The film balances a nifty plot with well-developed characters, believable dialogue, and impressive performances – making for a well-rounded movie.

What themes are suggested in Mud?

  • Coming-of-age: At its heart, this is really the story of Ellis and the beginning of his maturation from childhood to adulthood, and how he idolizes Mud – especially Mud’s lessons to learn about women.
  • The disconnect between men and women. This film insinuates that men, often driven by aggressive instincts, misunderstand and fail to communicate effectively with women.
    • Slant magazine reviewer Chuck Bowen wrote: “This yearning for understanding between the genders informs the entire film. Mud and his father figure, Tom Blankenship, are literally adrift at the end of the film, unable to reconcile themselves with women and life in general as they exist in reality.”
    • “(Mud is) an extremely sophisticated and progressive examination on how adolescent masculinity is defined by often contradictory cultural attitudes toward femininity,” wrote blogger Thomas Caldwell.
  • No man is an island. Mud exiles himself in hiding on an island, but knows that he cannot stay there forever – just as he cannot isolate himself forever from the sins of his past or the need for his girlfriend’s love.
  • Christ-like martyrdom. Mud (who has a cross symbol built into his boot print) stands as a kind of Jesus figure in the film – a savior of sorts for Ellis and Neckbone, who become his disciples – and Mud sacrifices himself at the end for the benefit of Ellis.
  • Fatherless children: the importance of having a father figure in your life.

How do the names of some of these characters inform us about what they represent?

  • Mud – connotes a person whose hands get dirty, and who is unpopular or in disgrace; a median point between the land in the water
  • Ellis – makes us think of, perhaps, Ellis Island, where immigrants and refugees turn for asylum and citizenship
  • Juniper – conjures up associations with a beautiful and aromatic tree; a wonder of nature
  • Blankenship – boat and ship imagery abounds in this film, and the viewer associates ships with refuge, shelter, and escape. Blankenship sounds like a “blank ship”, a cipher for a mysterious guardian angel of sorts
  • Carver – a violent sounding name fitting for a violent man
  • May Pearl – Suggests a jewel or treasure of a female who is in the spring of her life
  • Other films and works of literature that we think of after watching “Mud”
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Great Expectations, and ET: The Extra-Terrestrial – three classic stories wherein a boy helps and learns from a fugitive from the law
  • The Place Beyond the Pines
  • Beasts of the Southern Wild
  • Whistle Down the Wind
  • Sling Blade

Other films directed by Jeff Nichols

  • Shotgun Stories
  • Take Shelter
  • Midnight Special Loving

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