by Dan Fields
First published April 25, 2013 by the California Literary Review
Today’s Tom Sawyer (Mean, Mean Pride)
With just three feature films to his name, writer and director Jeff Nichols has already set himself a high standard. Both of his previous works, Shotgun Stories and Take Shelter, are strong dramas with compelling characters, dark intrigue and impressive economy of style. With Mud, Nichols has progressed from making a good film to making a great film.
Mud concerns a community of Arkansas river folks, and among them a pair of teenage boys who find a dangerous secret hidden downstream. More broadly, it chronicles a young man’s tentative first steps toward understanding how the rest of his life will work. The story hearkens frequently to classics of American literature, most notably the river adventure stories of Mark Twain. Though Nichols, at least in the case of Mud, shows more hope for mankind’s fate than Twain typically did, his storytelling style bears traces of the romantic recklessness and moral uncertainty which the author often underscored as those things which make even the best of us all too human. Continue reading