Cannes 2012: Jeff Nichols’ ‘Mud’ preview

This year’s 65th Cannes Film Festival boasts an unusually strong American presence within its competition strand, including Jeff Nichols’ highly anticipated new film Mud (2012). Despite only previously having directed two features, Nichols has rapidly built a name for himself after his stunning 2007 debut Shotgun Stories wooed critics at the Sundance Film Festival and his follow up Take Shelter (2011) won the the Critics Week Grand Prize at last year’s Cannes.

Set in his home town of Arkansas, and with most of the action occurring in and around the Mississippi river, Mud was completed last summer despite numerous serious concerns over the areas torrid history of flooding. Little is known about the film’s plot other than it’s a contemporary drama which centres on two teenage boys who encounter a fugitive washed up on the bank of an island in the Mississippi and work together to help him.

Mud will be the first of Nichols’ films not to star the imposing figure of Michael Shannon – although he will still apparently make an appearance despite a busy shooting schedule as General Zod in Zac Snyder’s Superman reboot Man of Steel (2013). Matthew McConaughey finds himself in the starring role this time around, and whilst perhaps rather low down the list of actors you’d expect to star in such a demanding and intelligent drama, his recent impressive turns in William Friedkin’s Killer Joe (2011) and Brad Furman’s The Lincoln Lawyer (2011) have greatly enhanced his reputation.

The rest of the central cast is made up by Reese Witherspoon and Tye Sheridan, who will play one of the two lead boys. Sheridan will be familiar to the Cannes jury after appearing in Terrence Malick’s 2011 Palme d’Or winner The Tree of Life. Sheridan will be joined by an as yet unknown local child actor, just another example of Nichols staying true to his roots by not only filming Mud in his old home-town, but also casting there for many of the film’s roles.

When interviewed about his latest film, Nichols has described Mud as “Kind of like if Sam Peckinpah had directed a short story by Mark Twain.” Rumours abound that his latest feature will also be far more action-heavy than his previous output, apparently requiring numerous stuntmen for its shotgun shoot-outs, dirt bike scenes and snake handling. Despite this however, Nichols has been quick to underline that the film remains true to his style and is a continuation of the recurring theme of love within a community.

The 65th Cannes Film Festival takes place from 16-27 May, 2012. For more of our Cannes 2012 coverage, simply follow this link.

Patrick Gamble