Amidst summer movie madness pushing films like Iron Man 3, Great Gatsby, and The Hangover 3 (none of which I’ve seen), a movie like MUD reminds me of why I love movies in the first place. It was a poignant cinematic composition that was equal parts romance, suspense, and humanity. I usually only expect one of the following to satisfy my movie-going experience: mesmerizing cinematography, universally relatable themes, or incredibly convincing performances. Luckily for me, Mud has all three of these intertwined in an unassuming tale of Southern heroes and their desperate aspiration for greatness (or perhaps just peace).

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It’s extremely uncommon that my entire family and my boyfriend and I all enjoy the same movie, but this was one of those times. I feel like I have so much to say/feel about it that it’s difficult for me to even figure out a structure to this blog post. So for my own sanity, I’m gonna break it down to these three elements. [Potential spoiler alert.]

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the look

From the minute this movie began, I knew I was going to at least enjoy looking at it. Living in the South, I often feel like there’s so much overwhelmingly quiet beauty in the landscape that I can’t begin to photograph or describe it. If you over-edit or affect it, the entire place will look hokey. On the flip side, if you don’t compose the scene delicately it will end up feeling too ordinary. Mud achieves the great balance of homeliness and extraordinary in a more subtle fashion than To The Wonder. While I revel in the confidence of overtly fantastic cinematography (Marie Antoinette, Amelie, Eternal Sunshine, etc), this ode to Southern scenery definitely tugged at my heartstrings as I’m sure it would for anyone who loves rivers, trees, fishing, and fog.

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the performances

The acting skills of the two pubescent boys at the forefront of the film completely blow my mind. It amazes me that Hollywood can continue to find such perfect vessels to embody such layered characters. Matthew McConaughey and Reese Witherspoon turned in notable performances, but they really didn’t have to do much more than react accordingly to these two boys. I can definitely see both of them growing up to be the new generation’s Leonardo DiCaprios, if they can maintain their great combination of vulnerability and strength. I fell completely in love with them and their perspective of the small world they were trapped in. When you’re at that age, you begin to realize how much possibility the world holds yet also the tragedy it can often result in. How can you cope other than to hold fast to your optimism? The main character lives on the edge, in-between surrender and faith in a better future.

the story

Another thing about this movie is that it easily felt as richly thought out as a great American novel. It’s incredibly engaging – sometimes it feels peaceful and other times makes your heart race. Either way, you feel genuine emotion for the characters and you end up rooting for them because happy endings seem so few and far between in this landscape. The relationships and situations reflect experiences we are all familiar with. Growing up, confronting your family, extending your reach beyond what is comfortable or nurturing to find adventure and intrigue…  and realizing that everyone you love and look up to can make just as many mistakes as you do.

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and in the end… it’s love, once again

Everyone in this movie is a small hero, trying to resolve their circumstances with their dreams of how life could be …while trying not to get bitten by any “snakes”. The men in this story are lovers disguised as fighters, desperately wanting to ride off into the sunset with their chosen belle. In their feeble attempts to do so, they usually end up driving the women they love away. No matter what they learn from their father figures or brother friends, they still can’t resist the hope that in the end, love is all you’ll need.

That brings me back around to the essential (and sentimental) reason why I can’t let this movie go. It’s a story about this desire for heroic love that resides in all of us. Wanting love, forcing love, rejecting love, forgiving love. I know I’m a broken record, but love is seemingly the end all be all of life. And I don’t just mean love for a significant other – I also mean love for your family and love for yourself. This growth and change of emotion is what drives us, either to ruin or exaltation.

[ images via google ]

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