Mud

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Mud Movie Poster Image
Poignant coming-of-age tale has some edgy content.
  • PG-13
  • 2013
  • 130 minutes

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 6 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

This is a story about redemption and love and the universal heartache that comes with growing up and being rejected and not knowing what's right and what's wrong. Ellis and Neckbone are constantly given advice about what it means to be a man, to love a woman, and to protect those you love, but they have to discover what's true for themselves.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Not a ton of clear role models -- the boys make questionable decisions, Mud admits he killed a man, Juniper doesn't keep her promise, and Galen is an admitted womanizer. But when it comes down to it, Mud is willing to put himself at risk for the boys, and vice versa. The characters' friendships are unconditional, as is Ellis' parents love for him.

Violence

Several fist fights, two between teenage boys and one in which an adult pops a teen boy in the eye. A man nearly chokes a woman and cuts her with a knife. A boy is bitten by a snake; his leg swells horribly, and he slips into unconsciousness before being taken to the hospital. A big gun fight toward the end of the movie leaves several people dead or injured.

Sex

A 14-year-old boy flirts with an older girl and goes on one date with her. They kiss twice. Neckbone asks Ellis whether he touched a girl's "t-tties" and excitedly flips through a stack of Penthouse magazines (no graphic images shown) saying innuendo-filled exclamations like "You've got to see these." Neckbone tells Ellis that "Help Me, Rhonda" is his uncle's "'doing it' song," and then a woman in a cleavage-baring tank top runs out and tells Neckbone that he should treat a girl like a princess, not like his no-good uncle. A woman flirts with and embraces a man who nuzzles on her neck. The uncle tells the boys that when a woman breaks your heart, you have to go find another and "get your tip wet again." A 17-year-old girl is shown laughing and flirting with a boy in his car.

Language

The word "s--t" is used in nearly every scene, especially by one of the boys. Other strong language includes "bitch," "bulls--t," "t-tties," "ass," "hard on," and more.

Consumerism

Cans of Beanie Weenie are shown a couple of times. Many Ford trucks. A Geo Metro and Pontiac Fiero are shown. Neckbone wears a Fugazi T-shirt. People shop at a Piggy Wiggly.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A few adult characters drink quite a bit -- Ellis' father, Mud, Juniper -- usually alone, but also at a bar. An adult smokes cigarettes.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Mud is a nuanced coming-of-age drama about two 14-year-old boys who befriend a mysterious man (Matthew McConaughey) with a dangerous past. Expect plenty of tense sequences, fist-fighting violence, one big shoot-out that leaves several men dead, and a fair bit of strong language (the boys say "s--t" a lot, as well as the occasional "bitch," "ass," and more). As for sexuality, one of the boys is smitten with an older girl, and they share a couple of kisses; his friend asks about her "t-tties" and is excited to find a stash of old Penthouse magazines (no graphic images shown). An uncle is known for "doing it" to the song "Help Me, Rhonda" and gives the boys terrible advice. Despite the film's language and references to adolescent and adult sexuality, Mud is the kind of thought-provoking film that teens and parents could watch and discuss together.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent Written byDan G. May 24, 2013

A modern Huckleberry Finn appropriate for older teens

Very similar to Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn, it explores the moral dilemmas when lives go bad. Mature teens will be encouraged to think about moral choi... Continue reading
Parent of a 13 year old Written bysnowview August 19, 2013

Not for under 16

I did not think this movie was a good choice for my 13 year old boy. It portraits woman badly, as not worth a mans trust, and likely to lead them on. The lang... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written bybranman894 May 24, 2013

Mud is an outstanding movie

Mud hits all notes for a perfect movie. Matthew McConaughey is great in the leading role. The kids are great and Reese Witherspoon is good also. The writing is... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byUnknownpearson June 2, 2013

Intense.

Great clever touching sweet but intense drama about a strange man who lives in the woods. One day two boys see a boat up in the tree and go in it but discover t... Continue reading

What's the story?

Fourteen-year-old Ellis (Tye Sheridan) and his best friend, Neckbone (Jacob Lofland), have made an awesome discovery on a remote island off of the Arkansas Delta where they live: a beautiful boat nestled perfectly in a large tree. But when they climb the tree and scope out the boat, they discover that someone has already claimed it -- a mysterious unnamed man (Matthew McConaughey) who asks them to bring him food. At first they're hesitant, but Ellis convinces Neckbone that it's the right thing to do. During clandestine subsequent visits, the boys discover that the man's name is Mud and that he killed a man to save the love of his life, Juniper (Reese Witherspoon), whom he's expecting to join him so they can run off together on the trapped boat. Back at home, Ellis deals with a crush on a senior girl and parents on the brink of divorce, while Neckbone, an orphan, lives with a charming womanizer of an uncle (Michael Shannon). When bounty hunters and the family of Mud's victim descend on the town, the boys face the consequences of aiding an escaped murderer.

Is it any good?

MUD is the sort of movie that stays with you long after the credits roll. Writer-director Jeff Nichols -- himself an Arkansas native -- has established himself as an actor's director with this independent drama that's so impressive you'll find yourself quoting the best parts to other people. Clearly Nichols has a soft spot for his home state, because he depicts it -- the poverty, the Piggly Wiggly, the rough-knuckled residents -- with tender, loving care. Even the perilous snakes swimming in the river are given both a symbolic and literal importance in the story. And what a simultaneously unique and age-old story it is: boys learning about what it means to be a man from a man who's both wise and dangerous.

The joy of watching Mud is threefold: the lush cinematography, the fabulous script, and the poignant portrayals from not only McConaughey, who delivers a career-best performance, but also the boys and the supporting cast. Sheridan's Ellis, the heart of the story, is a true Romantic who falls under Mud's spell because he yearns to believe that men will do anything to protect their love -- unlike his father (Ray McKinnon), who has apparently "given up" on his mother (Sarah Paulson). Lofland's Neckbone, on the other hand, is the movie's comic relief and voice of reason. The always amazing Sam Shepard has a pivotal role as a retired Marine sharpshooter who knew Mud as a boy, and Witherspoon pulls off a much tougher, sadder character than she usually plays. A touching story with terrific acting, Mud is everything that's good about independent films.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the similarities between Mud and other stories about kids who befriend enigmatic older characters, like Huckleberry Finn or To Kill a Mockingbird. How does the movie contain elements of both a Southern Gothic and a coming-of-age story?

  • In what ways does Mud's setting influence the boys' personalities? How are they different than the people they consider "townies"? What does Ellis' father mean about enjoying the river while he can?

  • There's a lot of talk about love and relationships. What relationship models do Ellis and Neckbone have in their lives? Are any of them positive? Why is Ellis so heartbroken about Juniper and Mud's relationship? What are his views on love?

  • Do you think Mud is a man worth helping, or not? On the one hand, he's a criminal and a known liar, but on the other, his actions seemed justifiable by his love. The filmmaker, like the boys, doesn't judge Mud too harshly -- but what about you?

Movie details

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