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These days, you can give me just about anything with Professor McGonagall… McConathingy… the guy with the abs and the neck and the not pretty face and the Southern drawl, anyway, him of Magic Mike and Killer Joe and Bernie transformation fame! The guy who used to be a systematic failure when it came to role choices, and now never takes a wrong step, it seems. Real astonishing performances he pulls off one after the other, and moves immediately into the centre of a film, however small or big his part may be.

Not the problem here, anyway, as he is something like the lead actor, cast opposite two kids who – Stand by Me-style – go out into the waters to check out something real cool, a boat that ended washed up in the trees and that would make the perfect hideout (naughty magazines included). If not for its tenant, The Man Called Mud. Nobody ever tells us whether that’s his real name, and is doesn’t matter. What we get to learn is that there are characters that are bad but in a nice way, certainly amoral guys whom we want to forgive their missteps, and not only because the other guys are even worse. Mud treats the kids nicely, treats them as grown-ups in a way, and this they appreciate and become confidants in his effort to stay hidden while reaching out for the girl he left behind while being on the run.

Jeff Nichols has apparently very quickly managed to establish himself as the director to be with (taking over that part from Spike Jonez … what ever happened to that one, by the way?), or how else can the number of not just well-known, but mostly actually excellent actors involved in this project be explained? There is Sam Shepard, there is Michael Shannon (with about 3 minutes of total screen time, but still…), and even Reese Witherspoon cannot spoil the fun.

The atmosphere of a decrepit area in the coastal region of Arkansas is a bit depressing, but what comes across quite well is the true love of (some of) the people who live on their house boats for their way of life, the bond they feel to living on the water, and the strong urge never to become “townies”. In that, “Mud” has certain “Beasts of the Souther Wild” touches to it, but whereas there this way of life is the center of the plot, “Mud” plays out like a mix of coming of age story and thriller. And brings them together in an excellent way!

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