When will the girls be allowed into the swamp?
I’ve now seen Mud twice and I must say that the character that Matthew McConaughey is playing still is a bit of a mystery to me as is the rest of the story.
I know as much as that he’s hiding on a boat that is stuck in a tree in the middle of a swamp. He loves a woman, but she doesn’t seem to love him back. She keeps getting involved with other guys, even if they treat her badly. The pursuit of this woman has put Mud, as he calls himself, into trouble. There are people who want to see him dead. The police are looking for him. But I haven’t yet figured out the details.
It’s as if I’m watching this thin, sunburned, dirty man from a far distance. I see him through my pair of binoculars but he doesn’t let me come near him I can’t smell him, I can’t hear his voice clearly and I have absolutely no idea of what he’s thinking. He’s untouchable, a legend rather than a real person.
I don’t get the whole picture. And as frustrating as it may sound, this is what makes me like Mud so much. The film is told from the perspective of two boys in their early teens. One day as they’re out on one of their many exploration trips they find Mud, and as they find him a bit intimidating, they’re also attracted to him, fascinated by his air of danger and adventure. So they start to assist him in different matters, even though they don’t know exactly what they’re getting involved in. I don’t think the movie would have been half as enjoyable if it had been told from the point of view of a grown-up. The story would have felt small, flat, uninteresting. It’s thanks to the gaze of the child that it gets the shimmer of a fairy tale.
My only complaint is that it feels a bit expected that the boys are exactly this: boys. They walk in the same shoes where other characters have walked before in books and films such as Huckleberry Finn and Stand by Me. Why is it that we so rarely get to see girls exploring swamps, connecting to mystery women who live there or finding bodies of dead people? The only swamp girl I can think of is Hushpuppy in Beasts of the Southern Wild, but she was a very young child. When will we get a movie about 12-14 year old girls that take out on an expedition? It would be nice for a change. Women can be more than just objects for desire and imagination.
Mud is not terrible from an equality point of view. But it doesn’t really bring anything new. How hard could it be to make the protagonist who goes out on a swamp expedition into a girl?
I can’t wait for it to come. A movie with a female Huckleberry Finn would feel like a breath of fresh air. This one clearly isn’t. It’s still well worth watching though.
Mud (Jeff Nichols, US 2012) My rating: 4/5