‘Mud’ is a film about the existence of love. As unexpectedly heartfelt as it is though, it has a current of unease surrounding it. It takes a while to figure out how you feel about some characters, but by the time they have set-up all of them and really jump into the story, you have become fully invested and hope for the best.
‘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.
_ Despite what the marketing would have you believe, “The Place Beyond The Pines” is not a movie about Ryan Gosling robbing banks. There are three very distinct, yet intertwined stories with 3 different leads. Nature v. nurture, the importance of honesty, a father’s duty, and a man’s sense of pride are the main themes explored throughout the lengthy yet quickly paced running time. Secured by great performances from very different leads, this is a uniquely structured film that creates a mood that spans very different environments and characters.
It is extremely difficult to discuss any plot points from the film, as revealing anything beyond the first act centered around Gosling could be considered a major spoiler. So lets just say that his character is a motorcycle stunt rider for a traveling fair, and when he comes back to Schenectady a year after meeting Romina, he discovers his son being raised by another man. He quickly decides to stay, and eventually begins robbing banks to try and support his family. Here is where I must stop, but the story continues organically but surprisingly from there, taking unique perspectives on different men in different situations and the similarities they all share.