This movie absolutely fascinated me. Like most movies that really intrigue me, I went in search of the "based on" information. There is none. Damn. Lots of pondering, lingering thoughts stayed with me after the credits rolled. This movie is so much deeper than what you see on screen. What was the real relationship between Mud & Juniper? Who hurt who? Who left who? If Mud was so bad, why'd he risk his life to save Ellis - I mean, did you see that man go??? And then he went to say good-bye. How did the Carvers know to stake out Ellis' boathouse on that particular night? Because they knew Mud wasn't an all-bad guy? They really thought he'd go there before sneaking out of town again? Why not wait until Mud left again before shooting up the house & risking everyone else's life? If the bounty hunters were so smart, why didn't they follow Ellis & Neckbone from the start? They would've found Mud long ago. Thank goodness for Tom Blankenship, right? So... why not, if all the bounty hunters & Carver's son were dead and only King Carver was left, why not go get Juniper? I guess because Tom didn't care fo her & saw her as Mud's weakness. And what about Galen? Why was he raising Neckbone? What happened to Neck's parents? What did Galen make of all this? There at the end, when Galen was oyster fishing, WHO was snoring in the boat? I thought it was Mud, and even rewound to check again: yep, it looked like Mud, but that was weird. Why have that shot right then, right there? THEN present the question of whether Mud survived in the next scene with Ellis & Neck watching the workers destroy the houseboat?
I think this is an important movie, but I haven't quite been able to define why. Certainly, the lessons of love are prevalent & important. Ellis's love for his parents - and his ability, as a young teenager, to express it so easily to both of them. His conviction that love is what mattered, and all that matter, and love should be a good enough reason to do things we shouldn't do, even when we know better. Mud's love for Juniper, Tom, Ellis & Neck? Galen's obvious love for Neck? Galen was a young man, Neck was 14 or 15. Neck said he never knew his parents, so Galen raised him for 15 years... by himself? That's alot for anyone to take on, especially a young, good looking, single man who lives off the river to care for himself & his nephew. Pretty impressive.
How about the love for the river itself. The setting is the Arkansas River. Ellis's dad makes his living off of it, the family lives on it in a houseboat that has been handed down at least one generation. Galen also makes his living off of it. Ellis & his dad don't want to leave it - because they love it or because it is all they know? Mud comes back to it: why? He's on the run. Why go back there? Juniper comes back, too. Again, why? Makes you ponder the old saying, "you can't go home again," but then, yes you can.
Like the river itself which has much going on beneath its surface, so does this story. And since there isn't a book I can read that will help me answer these lingering questions, I guess I'll just continue to summarize with my own pondering thoughts.