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...because a man must avenge his son ...it's expected of him.
Unassuming, snow ploughing, 'Citizen of the year', a man of few words, Nils Dickman (Stellan Skarsgård), goes on a vigilante kill crazy rampage, disposing of those mobsters responsible for his son's death, because a man must avenge his son... it's expected of him.
...and that's basically the plot in this quirky, slightly strange, somewhat dark, Nordic humoured movie. After a intriguingly dark and interesting beginning, the plot itself runs a little stale and begins to feel slightly familiar and rehashed. It's a shame, because a weak plot is the movie's only flaw. To me, it felt a little bit of a cop-out from the original premise of the 'ordinary man', that he could conveniently enlist the help of his criminally linked brother, in order to get the movie flowing again.
Nevertheless, there is a lot to take away from the movie, and, even if the plot falls a little flat midway, the characters and even the ambiance certainly do not! There is something so charmingly black in the understated Nordic tone that will keep you enticed - perhaps not loud roaring laughter, but certainly continuous rumbling chuckling throughout. The theme may be familiar, but it is told with a new ice veneer that is typically Norwegian in style, aided by the wonderfully droll backdrop of the mountainous countryside. Whether it be the in-car conversations between mobsters discussing issues such as differences between the welfare systems of cold climate countries as opposed to those of hot climate countries; or the face-off between the kingpin mobster, Greven (Pål Sverre Valheim Hagen) and his passively aggressive, coldly beautiful, ice-queen ex-wife, Marit (Birgitte Hjort Sørensen), these little scenes will most certainly keep you entertained and engaged.
The movie is certainly self-aware and has a little laugh at the quirks of Norwegian culture. This is no more evident than in the king-pin's home with its excessive and immaculate modernist furnishings. Scenes with Greven putting 'five-a-day fruits' ahead of business matters again epitomises the 'new world' of the Norwegian mobster. This modern society is put in stark contrast to the 'old world' of the Serbian rival gang where tradition and loyalty, the notion of an eye-for-an-eye, is paramount. Yet, even despite its odd quirks, the new world can manage to entice the old, with the Papa (Bruno Ganz), in the midst of his manhunt, opening up to new sensations on the cold mountaintop, vicariously experiencing the simple pleasures of the children as they ski down the mountain... and so the movie is perhaps also proud of its culture and origins, giving it a proverbial 'Fargo' feel.
Perhaps it doesn't quite attain the promise of 'high-art' it might suggest in its opening 20 minutes, but soon you learn it doesn't really need to. It's a quirky, superfluous little number that will give you fresh enjoyment on an old theme, and keep you quietly chuckling along, clucking like a hen, until the very end.
The Guest (2014)
Too much a homage to be taken too seriously, too engrossing to be but parody
A stranger, David (Dan Stevens), introduces himself to a bereaved family as a friend of their lost son in combat. David claims that their son's dying wish was that he come and pay them a visit and to do what he can to take care of them... Perhaps David over interprets that dying wish and takes it a little too far or perhaps he's just plain psychopathic, but whatever his motives, we soon find David worming his way into the family fabric, winning over sceptic members and making ambitions come true ...one way or another. A man that seems to never sleep, he has a sinister and peering stare that lets the audience know not all is right by him and that there are secrets lurking behind those cold, killer eyes.
Dan Stevens is cast perfectly in this role of David. Dry enough to pass as the perfect, courteous soldier boy to woo a mother in mourning, yet at the same time edgy enough that you don't quite know if he's going to talk his way out, or fist his way out; he has that sadistic glint in his eye that really does make it seem like David enjoys messing with the minds of those weaker advisories.
Very much a homage to 80's suspense/horror/slasher style movies, it's slick, yet self-aware enough not to take its narrative too seriously all the time, without becoming too much a farce at any one time. Surprisingly suspenseful, its mood is enforced with a supered electronic score that reflects the brooding tension and mounting suspense. The imperfect beauty of Anna (Maika Monroe) as the very homely, slightly slutty, somewhat angst teen again epitomises the 80's vibe going on. Maika plays the part of Anna beautifully as she tries to reconcile her mixed feelings for the enigma that is David. The shower scene when David opens the door half naked to her wouldn't have worked if they had dressed Maika up as a pristine beauty. Instead she is very much the 'girl next door', conflicted by desire. David is the boy she loves to hate, hates to love and knows not why is it gut intuition or primitive urge?
It reminds me a little of Cold in July (also 2014) in so far as, it builds upon our expectation of the narrative, and, if it doesn't quite break entirely from the mould in this case, it at least pulls on the strings and plays with those expectations. We sort of know the story and will anticipate certain things, but that's good! For example, when the son Luke (Brendan Meyer) is given the choice to either stay in the car, or join David in the bar (where Luke's bully classmates reside within), we already know in our minds that it's going to be a classic showdown. The following scene has to be the highlight of the movie for me! I don't want to ruin the scene for you, but suffice as to say, we all know Luke's curiosity is going to get the better of him, as it has ours.
Again, in that playful way, it mixes genres, moving from pure suspense, through action and on into slasher. Even the whole haunted house scene, is such a contrived set-up we have to chuckle a little at its self-referential play on the 80's movie theme it's the perfect slasher showdown, but who in their right mind would build such an elaborate maze??? But most off, it's such a joy to watch because its assuredly dumb enough to reinvigorate that sometimes cheesy atmosphere we enjoyed as teens in the 80's, yet remains suspenseful and clever enough to reinvent itself within a new era.
Too much a homage to be taken too seriously yet too engrossing to be simply a parody, its one of those quirky movies that is brilliant, because of its indifference to the discourse of time, while simultaneously pocking a rod at movie rhetoric .
The Double (2013)
Brazil meets The Tenant with tones of Orwell's 1984
Set in a world that resembles something like an eighties' vision of the future, filled with vector graphics, clunky buttons, knobs and dials, this dystopia is something of a hellish nightmare for Simon (Jesse Eisenberg). Simon is feeling an impotent anguish toward life as if he is pulled by invisible strings. Is he right in his assertion that the new boy in work, James, is his spitting image --a perfect double indeed!-- or is he facing into some sort of mental meltdown? Is the world he inhabits real at all or is it some sort of woken dream? Simon pines for celestial and dreamy Hannah (Mia Wasikowska), but can only take a backseat as he is forced to watch the expedient James woo the girl he loves, through calculated seduction. Maybe James is merely the reflection of all Simon desires to be, yet at the same time all he detests an alt ego indeed.
I think it's fair to say, from an early stage we know we are never going to get all the answers from this movie. The narrative is fragmented, visceral, existential in expression and slightly surreal, closer in discourse to that of a dream; it's like a cross between Brazil (Terry Gilliam) and The Tenant (Polanski) and has tones of Orwell's 1984. Normally I need a satisfactorily explained resolution. I think this goes for the majority of the cinema going punters and perhaps for this reason it's not going to be everyone's cup of tea. But if you can just accept the bizarre and muddled world Simon lives in, then the joy of the movie is felt through its visual feast; There is nothing real or tangible, only a loose commentary on the absurdities and frustrations of life. Every scene, every score, every sound, every screech, every flicker of every light, seems to echo Simon's fragile and crumbling ego.
I'm quickly becoming a fan of Richard Ayoade's work as I thoroughly enjoyed his debut movie, Submarine, too. He's got a quirky sense of humour and retrospective style that if nothing else, is tremendously entertaining. But his protagonists too, though always volatile and a little strange, somehow feel as if they are human mirrors to our own insecurities and experiences.
Jack Strong (2014)
A real life Polish spy thriller set during the heart of the Cold War
During the Cold War, Russia's subjugation of Poland created an incongruous situation for the Polish army, forced in part to comply with Moscow policy. For officers like Ryszard Kuklinski (Marcin Dorocinski) the day-to-day became a battle of conscience in an effort to compromise between raw moral choices with no ideal solutions. Kuklinski, a strategic planner in the Warsaw Pact, feels guilt for his part played in the planning of the Czechoslovakian invasion and for the army handling of the 1970 Polish protests. Looming under the genuine threat of a third world war, he also realises that Poland would become a nuclear wasteland if such a war were ever realised. Kuklinski decides that he can best serve his country only indirectly by undermining the USSR and takes the difficult decision to supply top secret information to the American CIA.
Ever since the second world war, we've had spy movies ranging from the glamour of James Bond, the wild fantasies of The Ipcress Files, to the dogged intricacies of Tinker Tailer Soldier Spy. But stories from the former 'block' nations have the potential to possess dark, suffocating, foreboding qualities, that may not be entirely new to the spy genre in itself, but feel greatly heightened by their personal touch, because they are telling the stories of ordinary men or women, forced to make extraordinary choices. The Lives of Others (Germany 2006) is one such movie that comes to mind, or even Barbara (Germany 2012) (Technically Barbara is a story of defection rather than spying, but it shares similar qualities).
There is a level of detail outlining the way Kuklinski passed over information to, and communicated with, his American counterparts that really brings the spy world to life in this movie. Sure it has some run-of-the-mill thriller clichés and plot devices: close calls while taking clandestine photos; unwanted guests arriving in at awkward moments; equipment failures, etc., but we give the movie liberty knowing that it is but a dramatisation condensed to encapsulate the overarching dangers the real life character would have had to face and endure over those years. The tone, the pacing, the scoring, help create a movie that echoes the genuine moral dilemmas Kuklinski must face, striving to deal with the contradictions that greet him on a daily basis. At the time it really would have been a tug-of-war of the conscience and heart; not wanting to be a traitor to his army, but not wanting to inflict harm to his countrymen, while at the same time unable to ignore the whim and will of Moscow, these conflicting influences tear at the soul of our protagonist least not to mention how they influence and affect his marriage and family life. The simple but effective score plays like a heartbeat thunderously building in anxiety, mounting to an ever inevitable climax. Strong performances all round help create the paranoid world of the foreboding Cold War.
This is a strong and tight thriller, part enlightening in exposing the complicated relationship between Russia and its satellite states, but most of all it is a personal story of how one man can find himself trapped between circumstance, having no clear or easy choice, only heart, and perseverance in moral direction.
12 Years a Slave (2013)
A harrowing story of a free man made slave
When Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), an African American violin player, wakes up in a cell, bound and chained, he finds he has been swindled by two traveling business men. The abducted Solomon, a northern sate freeman, is shipped off to the south and sold into slavery to a plantation owner. In a prejudice land governed by the harsh realities of economics and beliefs in white superiority, no one wants to hear the truth behind Solomon's incarceration. His bond is passed over to Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender) - a master who has the reputation for little leniency towards his slaves. Solomon quickly learns it is dangerous to reveal his true identity. The movie traces the twelve years Solomon must endure this incarceration, away from a wife and children.
It certainly is a strong and powerful narrative, one made all the more harrowing by the fact that it is based on a true story and works well as a reminder of our not so distant past. Chiwetel Ejiofor puts in a strong performance as the suffering Solomon and the director, Steve McQueen, is not afraid to let shots linger to create ambiance and feeling. It is a movie that certainly checks all the boxes for the Best Picture award it picked up in both the Oscars and Golden Globes.
For me though, in many ways 12 Years a Slave has very little to offer past being an interesting and intense narrative. I felt I've seen this theme before, played out in other movies. Yes, the movie is challenging in so far as it exposes some of the sadistic brutalities of our human condition, but I do like a movie that truly makes me look at a subject matter, physical or metaphysical, in a new light. 12 Years a Slave is a straight movie which tells a story that at best, can only reaffirm those beliefs and condemnations I already hold! I know that will probably prove a crowd pleaser for the mass, but to me, McQueen's other works (Shame and Hunger), perhaps delve deeper into the human psyche in so far as they ask visceral questions about ourselves through lead characters of greater ambivalence. I guess what I mean is, I felt strangely removed from the Solomon character, as if I could share in his indignation without ever having to get to know him truly.
That's not to say that 12 Years a Slave is not a fine piece of work and cannot hold a mirror up to expose the contradictions of the human soul in its own right. The villain, Michael Fassbender as the troubled master, Edwin Epps, is perhaps the most interesting and intense character. We get to see this conflicted man exposed though the relationships with his jealous and spiteful wife, his slave girl mistress, his twisted interpretations of bible and God, and his contempt, perhaps brought about through his own insecurities, for Solomon. A jigsaw of a man, who is the personification of injustice within a disquieted society struggling in conscience, in a changing world.
If you are one that enjoys a powerful and intense narrative, without distracting twists or meandering sub-plots, than this will be an enjoyable watch.
Blue Valentine (2010)
A study of Love in context
The first we see of Cindy (Michelle Williams), she is looking worn and tired as she tries organise her day around her child, her work and her seemingly no-good-for-nothing, lay-about man. Dean (Ryan Gosling), the beer guzzling partner, first appears to us as a man with little ambition, overly jealous and, lets be honest, a bit of a lose thread.
The movie continues to develop as the couple plan a week-end away in a shady 'romance' hotel. Here they try to rekindle their love and reconcile their diverging needs, aspirations and sexual wants. These scene are course and very hard to watch at times, but are intermittently cut with flashbacks outlining a happier past of how the pair originally met and came to be.
We can't blame Cindy for falling out of love with Dean, nor can we blame her for falling for his romantic and goofy antics to begin with, but the interesting aspect of the movie is, that as we see Cindy's love fall away, our sympathies actually grow for Dean as we witness how genuine his feelings for her were and just how much he unconditionally sacrificed to win her love. The true tragedy is then that two people, once very much in love, can end up falling from each other because time can change the context in which that relationship began. In this way, I don't think I've ever seen a movie that manages to so subtlety shift my sympathy --we really do feel for Dean by the end-- and yet manage to stay true to the characters in essence.
I think this has to be Ryan Gosling's best performance to date! He breaks from his usual demure of staring off wistfully into an unknown space and actually presents a character who is animated, goofy, genuine, vulnerable and very much human. So too, does Michelle Williams make an outstanding performance. She has to meld the younger, more naive Cindy with the older, perhaps wiser and ambitious Cindy. Again there is something that touches upon the human condition in her performance: as we begin to realise how much she means to the Dean character, we could very nearly come to despise her for falling out of love with him, but she manages to portray a girl troubled with conflicting desires and so we near feel her pain, written on her face, as she battles to reconcile the inevitable shift within. As far as on screen chemistry goes, these two are about as genuine as it gets, portraying both a young couple very much in love, and later as a couple straining to maintain a relationship. Though it is not always an easy picture to watch, it has some very touching moments. It is one of those works of art that will move something within, as it is a contemplative narrative that has something genuine to say.
How I Live Now (2013)
From romantic sop to gritty realism, focused through the lens of pop veneer
Daisy (Saoirse Ronan) is a young, broody, moody, American girl who is sent to stay with extended family in the English countryside. At first cynical about her summer arrangements and outwardly cold towards her jolly hosts, slowly she begins to thaw to their hospitable nature and thus begins to discover something within herself in this new setting a home away from home. But just as she finds her place in the world, an unthinkable event occurs and everything is thrown into turmoil. In a World War III type scenario, she is taken away from those she now considers family in the first and with only the companionship of her young cousin Piper (Harley Bird), she must journey back across the warn torn English countryside, to the place she wants to call Home.
It's a curious pick n' mix type story that in some ways feels like two genres melded together. The immediate narrative feels very much like a teen 'chick flick', but this is played out over a dark backdrop that at times feels course and close to the bone.
To me, the running commentary of Daisy the American girl, outlining her disciplined set of rules and paranoia, felt a little cheesy in its attempt to force home the difference between English and American culture. So too do some of the romanticised elements of country living, such as the young fourteen year old cousin (Tom Holland) who drives without a license, or the dashing older cousin (George MacKay) who raises eagles and will suck the dirt out of a bloody cut. It's a pity because I felt some of the subtler signifiers, such as the character of the motherly aunt (Anna Chancellor), or indeed the setting of the old country home with it's beautiful but cluttered wood interior and the backdrop of rolling English countryside, spoke a thousand words that other forced elements could only ever hope to convey. In this way I felt the scenario in itself, a city girl living in the countryside, should have been self explanatory.
If you can manage to overlook some of the hammier elements of the narrative, the movie really gets interesting in the build up, and realisation, to war. Movies about atrocities of war generally maintain a degree of separation for the Western World viewer because of differences in geographical location, time or culture. Whereas, where zombie movies may deal with scenarios in a world as we know it, again we feel separated by the fantastical suspension of disbelief that has to be made in order to accept a universe where zombies can walk the Earth. How I Live Now is set in a time, a world, a space that is starkly familiar to our own and so the degree of separation --that this could really happen to us!-- is only a small leap of faith. Indeed, the detached manner of the news reporters add a level of verisimilitude as they sound very much like reports we might see on our own t.v. screens on any given day. And so the rate and horror at which we see State structures deteriorate after the bomb is dropped, can be felt vicariously.
By actually detaching itself from the politics, How I Live Now manages to depict a faceless horror to war that is far more disturbing than if we had all the answers at the ready. We are never quite certain, for example, what spurred the bomb in the first place: if it was an invasion from abroad or a movement from within. Are the government forces that split Daisy from her male cousins simply making poor decisions on her behalf? We are left wondering who the real enemy is, but that doesn't really matter anyway, as soon we learn that even in a war of 'sides', those caught in the middle can only become victims. The pile of bodies that Daisy shifts through is a scene that echoes real life atrocities and dumps the reality at our door. The story is powerful in this way, because even though it speaks through a 'pop' veneer, still it touches upon the human condition. Our heroine cannot hope to change outcomes outright, but rather, in a grim reality, try only to traverse a topsy-turvy environment haphazardly.
So overall, does the movie work? Perhaps not entirely for the reasons I stated above. The over romanticised elements may prove too much for some. Again, we have some Lassie Come Home moments in the later half of the movie which bordered on cheese for me. And yet I can't help but feel drawn to this flick I have to give it kudos for its attempt to nit 'realism' and romanticism together. It's a quirky number with genuine flavour and thus, despite my criticism, manages to stick out in the mind while other more generic movies fade away from memory.
Jeune & jolie (2013)
A subject matter dealt with the subtlety that only French Movie can.
Having lived a relatively sheltered life, a young 17 year old girl, Isabelle (Marine Vacth), begins to explore her sexuality in rather a risqué fashion. We meet Isabelle on holiday on the eve of her 17th birthday. While on vacation, she meets a German boy and has an underwhelming first sexual experience. We meet her again in the Autumn to learn she is now leading a double life, moonlighting as a high class escort while still living under her mother's roof and attending school.
Of course there are some very ugly situations and in some hard to watch scenes, we see Isabelle near accepting the degrading attitude of some of her clients as if it is all her self worth, but then we also get to see her striking up a tender relationship of a different kind, with a much older man and later witness a conceited smile as she turns on her phone to a plethora of messages. Why does she do this to herself? Is it a form of self-harm or a narcissism? Is it an addiction, spurred from a desire to be loved without outwardly feeling capable of loving? Does she do it for the danger, the fear, the excitement, or is the money a factor also? Is it part due to having an estranged father? Does she enjoy it because it endows her with power over men and draws jealousy and insecurity from women? Or is she simply feeling starved of experience and hungers exploration?
All these questions are certainly posed or at least hinted at, but don't expect clear explanations or moral conclusions. No, the movie explores these themes without outrightly condemning or condoning her actions. Yes, Isabelle does draw herself into difficulty through her actions, but the discourse of this movie is not one of the obvious cause and effect we have come to know from mainstream cinema. There is no deus et machina to extricate an easy exit or satisfactory fix or lesson well learnt or crime punished. There are only the awkward moments that life throws at us in unexpected ways and uncomfortable truths that may never be satisfactorily reconciled. In other words, we are looking through a window into but a moment within this young lady's life --the passing of a year, the exploration of her sexuality-- and the fascinating aspect of this movie is that we see her live out the extraordinary in quite an ordinary way.
Carrie For those that have seen the original 1976 version
Okay, before I go into what may come across as a rant (my apologies) I will say that this movie as a stand alone, teenage, popcorn guzzling flick was enjoyable enough in its own right. It's probably a little unfair to hold too much judgment on a piece of work that will inevitably stand in the shadow of a classic. Nevertheless I think, unless a reworking can bring something new to the screen, as the Coen Brothers' managed with their reworking of True Grit where they went back to embrace the rich language of the original novel, then one is leaving their movie open to scrutiny. I suppose the justification was that with the rise of digital technology, a reworking of Carrie would allow for dizzying new special effects of which the original producers could only ever have dreamt! But whereby the Coen Brothers shed their rework of the sentimentality of romantic cinema narrative, the director Kimberly Peirce, seemed to embed this reworking of Carrie with Hollywood cliché.
And here pretty much starts my rant...
I'm not going to say that Chloë Grace Moretz did a bad job as Carrie. I think however, she was poorly cast. All the head tilting or nervous shuffling in the world was never going to convince me that this pretty girl was the reclusive, shy, plain character Carrie was suppose to be. Indeed, it seemed absurd when the gym teacher suggested Carrie use a little lipstick or red blush to bring forward features of her face as if she needed it. In the original, the face matched the script and this allowed for a Princess Diaries style transformation to which our superficial, but good natured Tommy could discover a new allure.
In this latest version the characters' motives come across as quite two dimensional. Whereas in the 1976 original, there was a fudged line between the 'good' and the 'bad' girls. Indeed, I remember the first time I watched the original, it was not entirely clear to me precisely who was in on what, or who was playing who. We suspected the character Sue Snell was having a crisis of conscience, but in the early stages of the movie, she might just have been playing a part in bad girl Chris Hargensen elaborate plan to get back at Carrie. Both girls used their own methods of feminine persuasion to coax their boyfriends along and so the 'good' girl was at least a little manipulative in her own way. In this reworking, the lines of allegiance are quickly drawn, the shades of personality are black and white and the viewer has little doubt about who is on who's side. It really bugs me that in modern movies often every detail is spelt out to the viewer and I think that new audiences watching this version today will miss out on the subtle, and thus more suspenseful, qualities of the original.
I mentioned above that perhaps the urge to recreate this classic in a modern form was brought about with greater visual effect capabilities, and to some extent I guess they expanded on the original. The greater destruction to not just the school hall, but the town in general helped create a travesty close to epic proportions which the original could only hint at. However, although some of the visual effects of the original may now seem a little dated perhaps (the flying hose!), still I felt De Palma managed more with the visual effects at his disposal, using split screens, slow motion and screeching sound effects, to create an eerie sense of atmosphere. For all the hi-tech effects of today, I felt the last scenes still lacked the same creepy climax that De Palma captured in his finale ...but that's just my take.
However, scenes like where Carrie brakes the mirror with her mind, then moves the shards, seemed like showing off visual effects for the sake of it, rather than adding any meaningful context to the narrative. Just because they could do something visually, doesn't necessarily mean that they should! Indeed, I thought the new movie's script missed the point of Carrie's power, at times giving the character too much control over it. What made the original such a physiological scare is the fact that her prowess with the power seemed to come only when she was humiliated, like it was tapped from a deep rage or frustration and so it was also indiscriminate in the people it hurt - including those who tried to help her. But here, Peirce allows the movie to be infused with sickening Hollywood sentimentality and not only does Carrie choose to save the likes of the gym teacher, but one last meeting is written into the script with the overly sweet natured Sue, just to let us know that Carrie's character is not altogether past redemption. Why? It was much more scary to think that Sue's good intentions could never be reconciled, that she was left with a haunting nightmare, a grim arm clutching up from the grave.
But lets not be too harsh on Kimberly Peirce: De Palma was one of the Greats of his day in an era where directors had the artistic licence to be a little more experimental. I love many movies from the 70's because they purposely set out to challenge the expectations of the cinema narrative of their time. This latest version of Carrie is a 'safe' retelling aimed at a teen market, perhaps with the suits that be forcing a hand, hedging their bets off the legacy and success of its predecessor. Not all together a terrible movie which would, perhaps, if it were not a remake, seem 'okay' in that generic fashion of main stream cinema today. If you love the original, you'll probably tut tut at times. If you have a friend yet to see either version, advise them to watch the 1976 version first!
A curious cocktail of intrigue, sentimentality and violence.
This movie seemed to hit a cord with me. It's a curious tale that boasts a tough skin, but really hides a sensitive underbelly.
The central story revolves around the relationship between a fourteen year old boy named Ellis (Tye Sheridan) and the charismatic but ambivalent character of Mud (Matthew McConaughey).
By exposing us near exclusively through Ellis' point of view, we get to experience river-life though the innocence and understandings of a young teenage boy, becoming man; and so the movie ultimately is a 'coming-of-age' story. The plot progresses as the mysteries behind Mud's hermit style exile to a small river island unravels. As Ellis comes in contact with those Mud has touched upon both positively and negatively, we get a glimpse into a colourful, eventful and sometimes shameful life. At times Mud is presented to us as nothing more than a common criminal, smarmy and manipulative; at times he seems to exude genuine comradeship and friendship; at times he seems hopelessly romantic and superstitious.
Mud is in hiding, but wants to get in contact with a childhood sweetheart and enlists the help of Ellis and his friend. Ellis has a tough skin but a soft heart and is probably a little naive in his romantic view of the world. With Ellis' own world falling apart --his mother and father's marriage on the rocks and the threat of their river-boat way of life being taken away-- he comes to invest himself emotionally in Mud's predicament.
For Ellis, love is still something pure, honest and uncompromising. But Ellis must find a way to reconcile his romantic notions of the world with the realities of cause and effect least he should end up isolating his heart to an island of its own making. Indeed, in many ways the challenges Ellis is now facing, mirrors what Mud has experienced in the past, and thus we come to realise that fundamentally the only difference between youth and age, is that perhaps consequences begin to get in the way.
Behind Mud's uncompromising love is a rugged and course world where nothing is ever left forgotten, where actions have consequences and bitterness breeds bitterness. Though the movie dances around the firelight of unrequited dreams, this is a violent tale in its foremost and we as the audience know that a turbulent climax is inevitably approaching. Murder, beatings, obsession mar the background of Mud's life and so the foreboding question becomes whether Mud will ultimately prove a net positive or destructive influence upon a susceptible boy's life.
Much in the vein of movies like 'Stand by Me' or 'A Bronx Tale', the movie Mud mixes a curious cocktail of intrigue, sentimentality and violence.
It was refreshing to find an independent movie that stirred clear of pretentious narrative fragmentation and yet, on the other hand, stayed relatively clean from Hollywood cliché. In other words, this is a good old fashioned yarn, told well.
It has to be said, I'm actually growing respect for Matthew McConaughey as an actor. Between this and 'Killer Joe' he is proving to have a much greater dynamic than the cheesy, greasy, two-dimensional, pin-up, chick-flick, characters he normally portrays. Actually, a point of note has to be given to all the leads. Tye Sheridan portrays Ellis as the compassionate lead we can all associate a past youth with, while Jacob Lofland as Neckbone completes the friendship duo as the always suspicious, always coy, always bartering, yet always loyal friend of Ellis. Not to mention Reese Witherspoon; for such short on screen time, she seems to haunt our thoughts as the trashy yet somehow celestial love obsession.
I think Mud may well be my favourite movie of 2013! (*Irish release year)