"Mud" is the story of two boys, Ellis (Tye Sheridan) and Neckbone (Jacob Lofland), who come across a man, Mud ( Matthew McConaughey), hiding on a small island in the Arkansas River, a tributary of the Mississippi River. Mud wants the boys to help him reunite with his girlfriend, Juniper (Reese Witherspoon). Mud killed a man who impregnated Juniper and caused her to lose the baby by pushing her down a flight of stairs. The law and bounty hunters are searching for Mud.
Jealousy, betrayal, separation, revenge and violence are prominent themes in "Mud". They issue from the main theme, the difficulty in human relationships, particularly the relationship between man and woman, husband and wife, which often starts off so promisingly and hopeful.
Snakes are also a theme in "Mud", particularly the Cottonmouth, a poisonous water moccasin. Early in the movie Ellis says, "I hate snakes." To which Mud replies, "That's because God put um here for us to fear." Later in the movie as Ellis' parents argue while their marriage disintegrates into separation and probable divorce, Ellis' father Senior (Ray McKinnon) accuses his wife and Ellis' mother Mary Lee (Sarah Paulson), of raising Ellis to be "a snake just like herself."
In Genesis 3:12 after Adam and Eve fell for the temptation of the Serpent, the Snake, we see the first division in human relationships between the man and his wife: "The woman whom you put here with me - she gave me fruit from the tree, and so I ate it." This will eventually lead to murderous violence as Cain kills his brother Abel.
When Ellis and Neckbone first learn that someone else is on the small island where they are hiding a boat, they see a footprint in which it looks like a cross is in the heel of a boot. But Mud eventually tells the boys that he has "nails shaped like crosses" in his boots.
Jesus nailed to a Cross has obtained the Grace to heal human beings and repair their sometimes stormy, and even violent relationships.
I thought "Mud" was excellent with an exciting climax. How refreshing it is to see an unabashedly Southern story in which the Southerners aren't being portrayed as stupid yokels. Mark Twain, whom "Mud" writer and director Jeff Nichols mentions in an extra after the movie, knew good stories could be set in the South. Would that more modern creative people would learn that the South isn't just part of "flyover country". Reese Witherspoon, a Tennessee native, touches on this also in an extra, saying, "There aren't a lot of Southern film makers."
Texan Matthew McConaughey as Mud is excellent as always. He's now on the A-List, if he wasn't already, after his Best Actor Oscar win for "Dallas Buyers Club". But he remains an interesting character actor.