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Ellis is a 14-year-old boy living on a river in rural Arkansas who desperately needs to believe love can succeed. The dissolution of his parents’ marriage and his floundering attempts at teen romance don’t give him much hope, but a chance encounter with a mysterious man who seems to be the very embodiment of “love conquers all” offers Ellis a glimmer of validation. Known only as Mud, the man also happens to be a fugitive, which complicates his friendship with the boy.

Despite some self-consciously suspenseful Hollywood trappings (including a completely unnecessary subplot involving a bounty hunter militia), Mud is about as honest a coming-of-age tale as they come, largely due to Tye Sheridan’s understated portrayal of Ellis.