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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
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
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 & Scariness
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.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
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.
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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.
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Products & Purchases
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.
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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. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.