Director and screenwriter Jeff Nichols represents the new hope of world cinema. After two more than great unconventional projects Take Shelter and Shotgun Stories, most viewers will not understand his third project very well, while fans of quality films will put it on the list of the best released in the last few years.
The beginning of the film follows two boys, Alice and Neckboun, who interrupt their idyllic everyday life by discovering a mysterious boat that is stuck in a tree canopy on an island in the far vicinity. That boat is part of their fantasies, until they find out that a man with the nickname Mad lives in it, who is waiting for his girlfriend on that island. In time, the boys team up with him and, when they find out that he is running away from the police and mercenaries, they do everything in their power to help him escape and make contact with his girlfriend.
The central figure of the entire project is the Mississippi River, which dominates the film and directly affects the lives of all the characters in it. In the settlements, resourceful, hard-working and, most importantly, honest people live on it, who get used to the cruel life by the river from an early age. In addition to the hard life, the love and respect that these people have for the source of their income is shown. A large number of topics are intertwined, starting from friendship and family, through love and violence, all the way to topics about life and death.
The script is light, without too many twitches and turns, so that it draws the viewer into an almost lethargic observation of the action, having the impression that the action is happening to those people in real life. It is so tucked away that scenes of shootings and races between life and death do not raise the adrenaline. The characters were excellently characterized and the casting team did the job properly, so that all together it leaves a rather realistic and convincing impression. On the technical side, it was done characteristically for a director, with sharp photography, slow shots and great sound, without unnecessary effects.
The main characters are fourteen years old, but they have suddenly matured due to the influence of the environment. They were performed by young Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland, between whom there is excellent chemistry in terms of acting, leaving the impression that they are best friends in real life. Their performances are surprisingly good and convincing. The role of Mada was so surprisingly well portrayed by Matthew McConaughey, a man who gained fame by starring in entertaining romantic comedies, relying solely on his physical appearance. However, he is excellent here in the role of modern Robinson, as if he spent his whole life on that island. Honestly, I was surprised that he didn’t take off his shirt and I would be quite surprised if he didn’t do that, but he was patient until the last third of the film. The rest of the cast also did a great job, evolving as the plot progressed and enriched the film with their performances.
I experienced this film as a very beautiful example of modern cinematography, intended for people who appreciate projects that rely on acting and human drama, without shooting, special effects and rushing. Individuals may notice that it is a shade too long, but if you open your mind in time and let the story guide you on its own without thinking too much, you will find that you have just grown a real film masterpiece.