With the new year, Netflix has received an influx of great films to start 2021 out right. In addition to films like Can’t Hardly Wait, Julie & Julia, and Superbad, Netflix has also added one of the best films from Matthew McConaughey and one of the central films in the “McConaissance” of the early 2010s.
After appearing in light romantic comedies throughout the 2000s like Failure to Launch, Fool’s Gold, and Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, Matthew McConaughey had a major career shift in the 2010s. In 2011, McConaughey appeared in three films that started to change the public’s perception of what the actor could do, with the release of The Lincoln Lawyer, Richard Linklater’s Bernie, and the disturbing Killer Joe. This trifecta of films showed McConaughey had more depth than previously thought, and started what was to be dubbed the “McConaissance.” After this breakthrough year, McConaughey followed it up with one of his most acclaimed films, 2012’s Mud.
Matthew McConaughey plays the eponymous Mud, a fugitive hiding in a boat stuck in a tree on an island in the Mississippi River. Two boys, Ellis (Tye Sheridan) and Neckbone (Jacob Lofland) discover Mud, and make a deal. If the boys help Mud and keep his location secret, he will give them his boat once he leaves town.
Very much inspired by Mark Twain, Mud is a story of regret, family, and of old and new loves. Ellis has a crush on an older girl in town, while Matthew McConaughey’s Mud still pines after his old flame, Juniper (Reese Witherspoon). There are all topics often explored by writer-director Jeff Nichols, who previously had made 2007’s Shotgun Stories and 2011’s masterpiece Take Shelter. Since Nichols has released 2016’s Midnight Special and the Oscar-nominated Loving. Currently, Nichols is working on Yankee Comandante, starring Adam Driver, and he is developing a third film in the A Quiet Place series.
But Mud was arguably most important for Matthew McConaughey, cementing his as an actor worth watching. In discussing Mud, Alan Scherstuhl of The Village Voice said the film was “the latest in McConaughey’s campaign for reconsideration as a great American actor.” Yet films like Mud and Bernie weren’t a fluke, as McConaughey would show. The same year as Mud, McConaughey went on to make Magic Mike, and The Paperboy. In 2013, he would star in Dallas Buyers Club, which would earn him an Academy Award for Best Actor. Soon after, he would appear in The Wolf of Wall Street, star in Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar, and continue to shock audiences with his role as Rust Cohle in HBO’s True Detective.
Mud was also a big deal for Jeff Nichols, as the film also made him a compelling director to watch. Mud made over $32 million, against a $10 million budget. The film won the Robert Altman Award at the Independent Spirit Awards, and received a nomination for Nichols as best director. The National Board of Review went on to call Mud one of the ten best independent films of 2013. The film currently has a 97% on Rotten Tomatoes, with most reviews praising McConaughey’s performance, while Metacritichas the film at a 76 rating.
Mud was a major film for both Matthew McConaughey and Jeff Nichols. For McConaughey, it showed the layers that he hadn’t been able to show in his previous films, while for Nichols, it made him an exciting new talent as a writer and director. For fans of Matthew McConaughey, Mud is essential viewing.