I am now officially a member of the Jeff Nichols fan club. I have not seen his first feature yet: (Shotgun Stories), but I will as soon as I can snag a copy. I did see the excellent: (Take Shelter), with the fantastic actors: (Michael Shannon) and (Jessica Chastain) about a family where the husband: Curtis, played by (Shannon) starts having these apocalyptic visions, and decides to build a large storm shelter in his yard to protect his family.
He is a loving husband and father, who at first believes he is suffering from some sort of mental illness, especially since there is a history with it in his family. This is a slow burn of a movie, that builds and builds until the ending. It is an original and well acted story that shows a man who wants to take care of his family, but is worried he is either right about his visions, or he is going crazy. Either one is not much comfort to Curtis, and much to the chagrin of his family, coworkers, and friends... he begins to build the shelter, taking out a loan, and putting himself into a financial mess because of his obsession. Curtis’s wife: Samantha, is frightened by what is going on with her husband. She wants to understand; she loves him, but she is growing fearful of the changes in him, and worries that they won’t be able to care for their deaf little girl: Hannah (Tova Stewart). Nichol’s film is so well done and acted, you really get involved in this story. A foreboding score and some effective effects make this an excellent middle American psychological thriller, by a director who I can’t wait to see what is next from him.
Ok, so I didn’t have to wait long for the next film by Jeff Nichols; and boy what a wonderful experience this movie was. I had read many reviews and was fairly certain I would like this movie based on the premise. I was wrong. I absolutely loved this tale by Nichols told on the Mississippi River in Arkansas. Part (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn) and (To Kill a Mockingbird), it tells the tales of two young boys who find a boat stuck high in a tree on an island in the Mississippi. They meet a man named: Mud (MatthewMcConaughey), who is living in the boat, and is apparently hiding out waiting on the girl of his dreams: Juniper (Reese Witherspoon).
The boys in this film: Ellis (Tye Sheridan) and Neckbone (Jacob Lofland), give two of the most natural performances by young actors that I have seen in some time. Credit goes to the boys, but also to Nichols for getting such relaxed and real results from Sheridan and Lofland. They are both good kids, on the brink of becoming young men, and they come from limited means in a town where not much happens. Neckbone lives with his good hearted Uncle: Galen (Michael Shannon) a muscle diver, and Ellis lives with his parents who are on the brink of divorce. Ellis helps his dad fish the river and sell to locals.
I love how Nichols is honest with the story of Ellis’s parents. They both love their child, but they don’t get along. They try the best they can, but they know what’s coming. Ellis does too and his helping Mud find his girl Juniper "A dream you don’t want to wake up from", might be his way of escaping the pain at home. For him, love is still an absolute, and Nichols gets that.
Problem is, there are others that are looking for Mud and Juniper; with not such good intentions. Some bad things have happened and someone’s going to pay. If the boys could help get the things to the island, that Mud needs to put the boat in the water and leave with Juniper; love would prevail. There is an old man who lives across the river from Ellis, with a past connection to Mud, and a girl in town who is older, that he is sweet on. All things come to a head at a leisurely pace, like a long summer’s day and the direction, photography, and the acting are all top notch. I think (McConaughey) does a great job with Mud, telling the boys his tall tales mixed with his taller hopes for himself and Juniper. This is like a fable of sorts: big ideas... small spaces.To tell more would spoil the joy of this film. One of the best movies of the year by far, and just like Christopher Nolan, I can’t wait to see what Jeff Nichols comes up with next. This will be considered a classic.