Regarded as anything other than fable, Jeff Nichols' Mud is a morally simplistic, predictable misfire, striving to overcome its plot-centred inadequacies with a fine but eventually ineffective sense of place, time and mood. Regarded as fable, though, Mud is a concise and potent story of an adolescent boy in rural Arkansas, who is wrenched into adulthood over a few Summer days. And Nichols is far from condescending in his tone - comedy and tension brush past with some frequency, but he mostly refrains from sensationalising young Ellis' experiences. Their emotive power is extracted via discerning writing and adroit acting. If his intentions are never nearly as ambitious as they have been in his previous work, Nichols wisely colours his film with a sufficiency of aforementioned comedy and tension: comedy largely from newcomer Jacob Lofland as Neckbone, and Michael Shannon as his uncle, and tension from the fugitive-in-hiding strain that supposedly drives the plot, and is accountable for a somewhat silly shoot-out scene at the end. It's all little more than a device to facilitate the more personal story at Mud's centre, but its intrusiveness isn't profuse, and the more Hollywood-esque turns can almost be overlooked by the film's nature as more tall tale for teens than truth. All cast members perform excellently but the two youth performances from Lofland and, in the larger role, Tye Sheridan are particularly impressive. There's not a trace of thought, practice, rehearsal in their line deliveries, nor their facial expressions. These are immediate, spontaneous thoughts, words and actions, it seems, as honest and heartfelt as anything in reality. Both have reason to look forward to long and thriving careers in front of the camera.