If I told you to watch a drama starring the likes of Matthew McConaughey and Reese Witherspoon set in the south, you’d have it all figured out, right? It would probably go something like this: McConaughey has to fight for the love of Witherspoon, who eventually falls for him once he proves his worth and takes his shirt off. But not before they stumble into a couple of comical plot twists which ultimately lead to Reese getting swept off her feet complete with McConaughey’s southern charm poured on thick as molasses. Well, forget all of that.
Mud is a coming-of-age tale about a boy named Ellis, played by Tye Sheridan (previously seen in The Tree of Life), and his harsh path of discovering what love is through the relationships of his parents, Mud and Juniper (McConaughey and Witherspoon, respectively), and himself. The film has received critical acclaim, a score of 98% on Rotten Tomatoes and is certainly worth a watch (seriously, Redbox it). Here are a few questions Mud presents:
Warning: henceforth semi-spoilers abound.
If we lose our sense of adventure, what else do we lose?
The film begins with two boys and their wild sense of adventure. They stumble upon a boat stuck in a tree that they’re hoping to claim as a hideaway only to discover it is already inhabited by McConaughey’s character, Mud. Though they should know better, they are fairly quick to try to help this mysterious fellow out. The rest of the film features all sorts of things that go wrong for the boys and those around them. In the end, it seems as though their sense of adventure gets worn out.
Children have an innate sense of adventure and a peculiar penchant of inquiry. But something happens along the way, doesn’t it? It’s not that we figure everything out… Maybe the world becomes common place. What a silly thought that is–the world in all it’s giantness and complex detail becoming common? But could it be that our “grown-up priorities” replace our wonder? Can busyness and the demands of productivity sweep the leg of general intrigue? Perhaps the film is asking this: if the cat kills our curiosity does it also take hope? A hope that says this weird and interesting world is truly lovely.
Does love fail us, or do we fail love?
Perhaps this is the central question of the film. The story is focused on Ellis searching for a love that he can believe in. He looks to his parents but his father is cold and condescending and his mother has appeared to give up on her marriage and her family’s life on the river, which is all Ellis knows. Ellis’ world is collapsing. At the same time he’s fallen for an upperclassman who teases him with a kiss on the cheek only to later give a cold shoulder. Afterwords Ellis’ father warns him about love stating, “You can’t trust love. If you’re not careful it’ll up and run out on you.” So when Mud describes his love for Juniper, Ellis is hooked, he must help them.
When we’re young we don’t simply believe that love exists; we innocently believe it can be trusted. Juniper asks Ellis why he’s going to all this trouble to help her and Mud to which Ellis simply responds, “Because you love each other.” When Ellis’ parents announce they’re getting a divorce he doubles his efforts to help Mud and Juniper, but his attempts to help leave him questioning if love is worth fighting for.
When Mud finally gives up on his lifelong journey to be with Juniper, Ellis snaps at him. Fighting tears Ellis cries, “You gave up on her! She gave up on you! Just like everybody else. I trusted you!” Did love fail Mud and Juniper or did they fail love?
In the end the viewer is left to decide…
“For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” – The Apostle Paul in his letter to the church in Corinth.
May you be adventurous. May you not lose hope.
What do you think? If you’ve seen the film, do you think there are other questions being asked that I’ve overlooked?