Austin Family family-friendly rating: 4 of 5 stars
Tye Sheridan stars as Ellis, a 14-year-old boy who lives on a houseboat in small-town Arkansas with his mother and father, who are going through a divorce. While sneaking out to a nearby island on the Mississippi River, Ellis and his friend Neckbone (Jacob Lofland) come across a mysterious hermit named “Mud” (Matthew McConaughey), who is living on the edge of town in a boat stuck in the top of a tree.
Hiding from the law, Mud asks Ellis and Neckbone to help him find and win back the love of his life, Juniper (Reese Witherspoon), who still lives in the town. Meanwhile, Ellis falls in love and gets his heart broken for the first time by a girl at school.
By the end of the film, Mud and Ellis are forced to wake up from their romantic daydreams. In one of the closing scenes, Ellis moves into a new neighborhood and reluctantly nods at a few girls in their summer clothes, perhaps a little wiser about the realities of love. It’s a small and beautiful closing moment in an extraordinary film.
Jack Kyser is a graduate of Austin High School and New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.