‘Mud’ centers around two young boys from Arkansas, who run into a man named Mud when they are exploring a secluded island where they discover the wonder of a boat stuck in a tree. As they get to know him and form a friendship, they also begin to learn about Mud’s life, the crimes he has committed, how much danger he is in, and how much love he has in his heart.
The two boys, Ellis and Neckbone, along with Mud, fill almost all of the screen time. Before too much of the real story is revealed, we are given around an hour to spend with these characters as they get to know each other, and the second half of the film is infinitely better for it. Since we understand these relationships so well, and get insight into the problems each character faces, we really care about how this all ends up for them. Mud’s interactions with the kids are not how an adult speaks to children; He does not talk down to them, and he does not intentionally try to frighten them. He is cautious of them, as they are of him, but they are all eager to let the others in. Despite what the initial motivations for friendship are, all three are deeply invested in each other by the time these ties are tested.