Mud (2012 film)

2012 film by Jeff Nichols

Mud is a 2012 film about two young boys who encounter a fugitive and form a pact to help him evade the vigilantes that are on his trail and to reunite him with his true love.

Directed and written by Jeff Nichols.
  • There are fierce powers at work in the world, boys. Good, evil, poor luck, best luck. As men, we've got to take advantage where we can.


  • Mud’s a born liar. That’s what makes him so likable. He makes people feel good about themselves. He’s a romantic. I don’t think he means to hurt people. But when people get close to him, that’s what happens. I do love him Ellis. But I can’t spend the rest of my life runnin’ with him. I may not know what kind of life I want, but I know that’s not it.


Mud: I like you two. You remind me of me. And seeing how you boys are from Arkansas and we know some people and sounds like we all from the same place I'd say we can make a deal here about somethin'.
Ellis: A deal for what?
Mud: Food. Food for a boat.
Neckbone: This guy's a bum Ellis. Come on.
[Mud's smile vanishes. Neckbone begins to walk off but begrudgingly stops when Ellis starts back in.]
Ellis: Why don't you go get your own food?
Mud: I would if I could, but I told somebody I’d meet ‘em here. So I’m stuck for now and what I got’s runnin’ low.
[Neckbone walks back and pulls Ellis by the arm.]
Neckbone: He's a bum Ellis, let’s go.
Mud: I'm no bum. I got money. You can call me a hobo ‘cause a hobo’ll work for his living and you can call me homeless ‘cause that’s true for now, but if you call me a bum again I'll have to teach you somethin' about respect that your daddy never did.

Neckbone: I hate snakes.
Mud: That’s because God made them for us to fear. It’s a thing we knew to be afraid of before we even got into this world. Cherokee would wrap snake skin around their pregnant women’s bellies. Induce labor, scare the child out. Here. [He fetches a length of rope out of the duffel bag and tosses it to Neckbone.] Set that ‘round your bed at night. Snake won’t cross braided rope.
Neckbone: Thanks. [nods to Mud’s snake tattoo] So what’s that for then?
Mud: A reminder. Don’t get bit. I was 10, swimmin’ ‘bout a mile up from here. Me and Juniper. Sonofabitch swam right up under me, bit me just below the armpit. June got me out, got me to a clinic. Doctor said I shoulda been dead in twenty minutes. Took us an hour just to get back to town.
Neckbone: What’d they do?
Mud: Gave me antivenom. For a cotton mouth. See here. [Mud shows the tattoo on top of his right hand. He points out the two cotton blossoms bulging from the snake’s mouth.] Problem with antivenom is they can only give it to you once. It’s made from horse blood. Your body would reject it a second time. The cure ends up being more dangerous than the poison.
Ellis: What happens if you get bit again?
Mud: I die, or just sweat it out.

Senior: You know I love you?
Ellis: Yessir. I know.
Senior: I work you hard 'cause life is work. You know that?
Ellis: Yessir.
Senior: Your Mamma's been talkin' 'bout movin' in town.
Ellis: What's that mean?
Senior: She seems set on it. Wants to separate. She may ask me for a divorce.
Ellis: [pause] What's that mean for me?
Senior: It means enjoy the river son. Enjoy it while you live on it, 'cause this way a life isn't long for this world. Game and Fish’s 'bout made certain of that.
Ellis: But you and me can still live out here. Game and Fish can't take your boat. Not while you’re still in it.
Senior: The houseboat's in your mother's name. Her daddy give it to her not me. If she wants to leave it, Game and Fish has ever' right to take this boat apart board by board.
Ellis: But that ain't right. You work outta here. We got the ice machine, the traps. What are we supposed to do?
Senior: Like I said, this is your mother's business.
Ellis: I ain't no townie. I ain't livin' like that.
Senior: [pause] I've let you down. A man should be in charge of his own affairs, but I haven't worked it like that.
Ellis: But ya'll are married. Ya'll are s'posed to love each other.
Senior: I don't know about that anymore.

Ellis: The girl you’re waitin’ on, she’s your girlfriend?
Mud: Juniper. Yeah.
Elis: How’d you meet her?
Mud: We grew up together.
Ellis: Do you love her?
Mud: I do. The first time I saw her was on this river. Just up from here. She saved my life.
Ellis: From the snake bite.
Mud: That’s right. I was younger than you are now, but when I came to in the hospital and she was there, it was like the world split open, came back together new. Everything changed. I knew from then on I’d do anything for her.
Ellis: Why aren’t ya’ll married?
Mud: I’ve asked. Several times. Marriage just doesn’t work for some people.
Ellis: My dad says my parents may be gettin’ a divorce.
Mud: I’m sorry to hear that.
Ellis: If it happens, and my mom moves us off the river, they say the government can come take our boat away.
Mud: Who says that?
Ellis: Everybody. They passed a law so you can’t sell your boat. Can’t rent it. If the owner leaves, they got you. Game and Fish want ‘em off the river.
Mud: I’ve never been one to trust the government on matters of personal property, but if your parents love each other, there’s always a chance.

Neckbone: I knew it. I told you that dirty son of a bitch was trouble. Did they say what he did?
Ellis: No.
Neckbone: Did you tell them where he is?
Ellis: No, that's why I called you. He needs to know people are looking for him.
Neckbone: You think he doesn't know that already? Jesus, Ellis! Why do you even think he's on that island? Ellis, I'm serious! We don't know who this guy is.
Ellis: He loves her, Neck. He told me.
Neckbone: I don't give a shit who he loves!
Ellis: He's not dangerous.
Neckbone: [sighs] Sounds like a shitload of state troopers thinks differently.

Tom: The real reason Mud’s in the trouble he’s got is because of her. He’s been in love with that girl since he was your age. They used to run all around here and it was the same back then. He’d follow that girl wherever she led him. Problem is she don’t care about nobody but herself. I’ve told him as much. She’d bed down with the meanest snake she could find, then when things went bad she’d go runnin’ to Mud. Mud would take her back, then go find whatever unlucky sonofabitch last put a hand on her and beat ‘em ‘til they knew to never touch her again. And this time I guess he thought a beating wasn’t good enough. Had to shoot that fella. I don’t know for sure, but I’d put money on Juniper knowin’ he’d do it. And I have a suspicion she might of even told him to. Either way, those two are set for failure. Only chance Mud has is to cut her loose. Cause I’ll tell you what, Mud’s no bad ass. He’s runnin’ scared.
Ellis: I gotta go. [pauses] You’re wrong about Juniper. They love each other and they’re gonna make it. If you weren’t a wore out old man you’d know it was true.

Senior: You not talkin’ to me?
Ellis: I’m talkin’. I’m talkin’ to both of you. That’s all ya’ll want to do is talk.
Senior: Well, that’s your mother. Would rather tongue lash a problem than step up and handle it. You’ll see one day. Women are tough. They’ll set you up for things. You can’t trust love, Ellis. If you’re not careful, it’ll run out on you. You just gotta pick a woman and roll the dice. Hope you don’t wake up in fifteen years hatin’ each other.

Senior: J.J. Crawford said a boat motor went missin’ from his stock yard. Said his daughter saw this one and his friend haulin’ it off. Now you tell me right now, did you steal that motor?
Ellis: We didn’t steal it.
Senior: Lie to me again.
Ellis: We thought it was junk. We didn’t think it was worth anything.
Mary Lee: Ellis?
Senior: You tell me I raised a thief?
Ellis: I’m not a thief.
Senior: You take property that’s not yours. Property that belongs to another man. That junk is his livelihood. I’m ashamed of you.
Mary Lee: Senior.
Senior: [to Mary Lee] Shut your mouth. You think you can take things and not have him see it? Neither one of you has any respect for a man’s livelihood. A life that puts clothes on your back and food in your stomach.
Mary Lee: Don’t you blame this on me. One doesn’t have a thing to do with the other and you know it.
Senior: Don’t tell me what I know. If you can steal a man’s life out from under him in front of your son and think he won’t take a lesson from it than you’re even dumber than you look.
Ellis: Stop it dad.
Senior: She’s raisin’ you a snake like herself, and you can curl up with her ‘fore I give a damn. You just remember this when you watch them rip this house apart board by board. You hear me?!
[Mary Lee slaps Senior hard. He turns to her, saying nothing.]
Mary Lee: You’re a man who’s never had the strength to support his own life. I never asked you for a thing, and I’ve never took a thing from you that I couldn’t provide for on my own. If they do tear my home apart the only joy I’ll have in my heart is knowin’ that they’ll be tearing you out of my life for good. Ellis. You’ll return that motor from where you found it and you’ll apologize in person to the man you took it from. I won’t hear about anything like this again.
[Mary Lee exits quietly.]
Ellis: I can’t take that motor back. But I’ll pay him for it. I’ll pay him what he wants for it.
Senior: I don’t care what you do Ellis.

Mud: What’d she...
[Ellis punches Mud with as much force as he can muster.]
Ellis: You’re a liar. Makin’ two kids run around doin’ work you’re too scared to do yourself. Makin’ me tell her it’s over ‘cause you’re too scared to do it yourself. You said you loved her and you lied. You gave up on her and she gave up on you just like everybody else. I trusted you. Bonfires and crosses. Wolf’s eye bullshit.
[Mud tries to approach him but the boy explodes, shoving him.]
Ellis: EVERYTHING YOU’VE TOLD ME WAS A LIE! You never cared about her. You never cared about us. Not like you said. Not enough to matter. You used us.
Mud: Come on Ellis.
Ellis: You made me a thief!

Mud: We got the boat in the water.
Ellis: You did?
Mud: Just now. Smooth sailin’ from here on out.
Ellis: Good.
Mud: Wish you coulda seen it.
Ellis: Me too.
Mud: Didn’t feel right leavin’ town without sayin’ goodbye.
Ellis: I’m sorry ‘bout what I said.
Mud: No. No. You were right to be mad. You were right about a lot of things. I’m the one that’s sorry. I shoulda never gotten ya’ll into all this. I just didn’t see any other way around it. But I couldn’t leave without you knowin’ I never lied about being your friend. I never lied about that.
Ellis: I know.
Mud: I don’t traffic in the truth too often. But I did love her. I do love her.
Ellis: She loves you too. She said it.
Mud: I just made mistakes. We both did. This is a hard life to keep up with. You can’t blame her for gettin’ tired of tryin’.
Ellis: My dad says you can’t count on women lovin’ you. He says you can’t trust it.
Mud: That’s not true. Don’t judge your life on all of our mistakes. You’ll make plenty mistakes of your own, no need takin’ on everybody else’s. You’re a good man Ellis. If you find a girl half as good, you’ll be all right.
Ellis: You’re a good man too Mud.
Mud: [smiling] No. I’m not. But maybe from here on out I can be...


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