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Film / Mud

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Mud is a 2012 American film written and directed by Jeff Nichols. It's a Coming of Age Story mixed with crime drama set on the downstream of Arkansas River.

Ellis (Tye Sheridan) and Neckbone (Jacob Lofland) are two fourteen-year old boys living in De Witt, Arkansas. Finding a boat that was stuck on a tree in the middle of an island led the two friends into an encounter with a strange man who called himself Mud (Matthew McConaughey). With Mud promising to give them the boat, Ellis and Neck agreed to help him live while he waited for his lover, Juniper (Reese Witherspoon), to come and go with him. However, things aren't so simple as that. Bounty hunters began to visit the town looking for a murderer, and the truth about Mud began to unveil.

Mud contains examples of these tropes:

  • Amicable Exes: In the end, Mud and Juniper part ways as friends, and The last conversation between Ellis and his father, where the latter instructs his son to be good to his mother, implies that Senior had come to understand his wife's reasons for leaving him.
  • Awesome McCoolname: Neckbone. It appears to be his actual name. Mud even comments that it's a pretty cool name.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Tom finally shows off his sniping ability in the climax, saving Mud, Ellis, and Ellis' parents.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Mud and Ellis both Did Not Get the Girl, but the former manages to escape his pursuers and is ready to start a new life while the latter has come to terms with his parents' divorce and has matured in regards of love.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Mud has a lot of weird, superstitious quirks. Apart from that, it's not clear what he is or does, but he is a badass survivalist.
  • Character Title: The movie is titled after Mud, though he shares the protagonist role with Ellis.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The snake-infested creek features in several scenes near the beginning of the movie; Mud tells the boys a story about snake venom and the dangers of getting bitten; it's largely forgotten for about an hour, and then near the end of the movie, Ellis falls into the creek and is bitten by the cottonmouths, causing Mud to come out of hiding and be exposed to the men hunting him.
  • Coming of Age Story: The film is about Ellis growing up through his adventure with Mud.
  • Cycle of Revenge: Mud murders Juniper's Domestic Abuser to make him pay for abusing her. Now, the abuser's crime syndicate of a family is now hunting the killer down.
  • Deserted Island: A boat got stranded in a tree in the middle of one in the Arkansas River. The plot started with the boys meeting with Mud there.
  • Exact Words: Mud promised Neckbone his gun in exchange of helping him prepare the boat to escape. He does give the boy the gun, but not the bullets.
  • Family-Values Villain: King makes his hired killers kneel and pray...for the death of the man they're after.
  • Foil: Mud is essentially what Ellis would become if he hadn't matured beyond his notions on romance.
  • Gadgeteer Genius: Neckbone built his own motorcycles and later helps Mud rebuild the boat.
  • Heroic BSoD: Mud, after Juniper decides to ditch him, and Ellis, after finding out that May never takes his feelings seriously and that Juniper and Mud have given up their relationship.
  • If You Ever Do Anything To Hurt Him: mild example from a male, to a male, about another male. Neck's uncle Galen tells Ellis not to get his friend, who looks up to him, into more trouble than they can get out of.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Nobody in the cast is a completely nice person. Each has their share of selfishness and bad deeds, but they are able to show kindness, selflessness, and even heroism.
  • Mama Didn't Raise No Criminal: Invoked or even inverted: Ellis' parents react this way when they find out that Ellis has stolen a motor from his father's friends' backyard. It's for Mud to use.
  • Parental Substitute: Tom was this for Mud. Galen (an actual relative) for Neck.
  • Shirtless Scene: Mud's attachment to his shirt (as it "protects him" and is one of his most valued possessions), makes him abandoning it after Juniper cheats on him and he goes into a Heroic BSoD thematically important.
  • Shadow Archetype: Mud is essentially what Ellis would become if he hadn't matured beyond his notions on romance.
  • Suck Out the Poison: Completely averted. Mud uses actual first-aid methods on Ellis' snakebite, such as putting a bandage above the bite site(not a torniquet), marking the time of envenomation, and then keeping track of the swelling.
  • Two First Names: May Pearl, Ellis' crush, and Mary Lee, Ellis' mother. The coincidence is Lampshaded by his father.
  • Wild Child: Tom claims he found Mud living in the woods as a child younger than Neckbone or Ellis.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Ellis gets a black eye from one of the syndicate men, implied to be the brother of the man Mud killed. Later in the film, the man rubs it in a little more, by holding up Mud's picture and asking Ellis to look at it with his good eye.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Juniper gets slapped around.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Tom berates Mud for involving Ellis and Neck in his problem.