(out of 5)

Ellis and Neckbone are two Arkansas boys who find a speedboat stuck high atop a tree in a remote marsh and decide to make it their own. When it turns out to already be inhabited by a charismatic drifter (), they are immediately won over by his charm and become his little helpers. Neckbone () is wary of this man and what is either a streak of madness or criminal behavior, but Ellis () is won over by his tale of having returned to their town to save the woman he loves () from very bad men. Jeff Nichols follows up his marvelous Take Shelter with yet another absorbing, highly evocative drama whose richly sympathetic characters combine with superb acting and a thoroughly engrossing narrative for a more than satisfying experience. Between Sheridan’s exceptional performance as Ellis, presenting one of the best explorations of coming-of-age male adolescence since The 400 Blows, the humour that Lofland provides and the star presence of McConaughey (whose fame only helps us understand their obsession with him better) it is hard to decide what stands out best. Meanwhile,  and  provide terrific support as Sheridan’s parents, and the elements of “that memorable summer” plot combined with a heroic tale of good versus evil are combined to perfection without any of it coming off pat or familiar. Add to that a story of cultural displacement in the form of our young hero’s family being moved off their Mississippi River houseboat due to government interference (and Nichols should be commended for avoiding the shallow visual hyperbole of the overrated Beasts Of the Southern Wild) and you have a film whose many strands should make it a mess but it never is. Even the presence of Witherspoon, who can’t quite blend in with the surroundings the way her co-stars do, does no great harm to what is such a wonderful film.

Lionsgate, Everest Entertainment, Brace Cove Productions, FilmNation Entertainment

USA, 2012

Directed by

Screenplay by Jeff Nichols

Cinematography by

Produced by , ,

Music by

Production Design by

Costume Design by

Film Editing by

Cannes Film Festival 2012

Independent Spirit Awards 2013.

Las Vegas Film Critics Awards 2013.  

National Board of Review Awards 2013.

North Carolina Film Critics Awards 2013.  

Online Film Critics Awards 2013.  

Phoenix Film Critics Awards 2013.  

Washington Film Critics Awards 2013.

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