14 year-old Ellis (Tye Sheridan) lives on a makeshift houseboat on the banks of a river in Arkansas with his parents, Mary Lee (Sarah Paulson) and Senior (Ray McKinnon). He sneaks out early one morning to meet his best friend, Neckbone (Jacob Lofland). Neckbone, also 14, lives with his uncle, Galen (Michael Shannon), who makes a hardscrabble living diving for oysters. The two boys set out to an island on the Mississippi River, where Neckbone has discovered an unusual sight-a boat, suspended high in the trees, a remnant of an extreme flood some time in the past. They climb the tree and into the boat only to find fresh bread and fresh footprints. Realizing that they are not the only ones who have discovered the treehouse boat, they decide to leave. When they reach the shore, they find the same footprint in their boat. And that's when they meet Mud (Matthew McConaughey). Mud is a gritty, superstitious character; his clothes are dirty, his tooth is cracked, and he needs help. He tells the... Written by
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Boys Own Adventure becomes a coming-of-age and adult drama.
Two boys make their way along the Mississippi River to an island where they find a boat up a tree, however they quickly discover that they are not alone. A mysterious man is living on the island and when they encounter him, their adventure gets a lot more serious.
The setting for this film is the Mississippi River. It dominates this film as it dominates the lives of the main characters in this film. This is not a film about small-town America. There is a small town, in which everyone knows everyone, but most of the action takes place out of town, out on the river, and out in the uninhabited areas of the river's ecosystem. The two fourteen year old boys and their families, are river people, making a precarious living from the river. Life is hard but the people are hard-working, honest and resourceful. If Mark Twain was writing now, and had not been seduced into doing graphic novels, these are the people he would be writing about. In fact, this film does homage to Mark Twain; Huckleberry Finn was based on a childhood friend of Mark Twain's called Tom Blankenship, the name of a character in this film. This film then, essentially, is a modern up-date of that genre.
The two boys are played superbly by Ty Sheridan and Jacob Lofland. Their characters are fourteen-years old, hardened and matured by their environment. The two actors seem believable and natural in their roles. Chris Pine was originally considered for the role of the mysterious stranger, and with his blue eyes and young looks, he would have looked attractive and charismatic as he encountered the boys. I bet he wishes he had been in this well-scripted film. However Pine's loss is Matthew McConaughey's gain. Robinson Crusoe was never like this. I doubt if Pine could play this as well as McConaughey, who lives this role. Actor? This guy looks like he has done nothing, but, live on the river, all his life. You totally believe he is living on this island. If there was a Best Eating Baked Beans Oscar, he would get it! A totally convincing performance! All performances were great. Not just of McConaughey and the two boys, but of all the supporting actors too. At first you are unsure who is who in the families. They seem a little cold but as the film progresses the characters develop. All are believable. The female roles, there are three, are all strong and well developed. The lovely Reese Witherspoon, star of 'Legally Blonde', like Sharon Stone in 'Casino', shows here that she can play a gritty role. Youngest actress, Bonnie Sturdivant, like the boys, got it just right. Older actors too were great; Sam Shepard, who played his role with some depth, and it was good to see Joe Don Baker in a small role.
All actors played their roles convincingly. As said, their lives are hard; they are plain-speaking people, however the occasional bit of laconic home-spun philosophy, will also be said.
This movie is beautifully filmed, lovely rich colours. The river is filmed lovingly, so too the way of life. The film is a homage to the life and the river. However while we see beautiful scenes of the river, we see too the grittier scenes of urban decay and dereliction and waste. All filmed well.
The UK rating of this film is 12A, though this reviewer thinks it unsuitable for anyone under 14 years of age. There are many different threads and themes to this film and it is unclear what will be resolved. Friendship, family, life and death, love and violence are all explored. The adult themes are not hidden. The boys have to try figure out the truth and act accordingly. The film is very much seen through their eyes. However we do see a little bit more than the boys see. What is the truth? What to do? The truth is not very clear, clear as mud, perhaps. No real judgement is made about the truth, or the characters, or their decisions. Their lives are too rich and complex for that sort of simplistic verdict.
So at the end of this film, a fourteen year old boy may have learnt something, and others, so too may you. 10/10.
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