Rated 5.0

With river rats young and old haunted by misadventures and illusory romance on the Arkansas side of the Mississippi River, the latest film from Jeff Nichols (Take Shelter) feels a little like a modern-day Huckleberry Finn. A kid named Ellis (Tye Sheridan) and his pal Neckbone (Jacob Lofland) go prowling for a boat wedged in the treetops of a wilderness island and cross paths there with a scraggly fugitive named Mud (Matthew McConaughey). Mud’s obsession with erratic dream-girl Juniper (Reese Witherspoon) brings tattered romance and other troubles into the action. Mud, a battle-scarred neighbor (Sam Shepard), and Ellis’ uncle (Michael Shannon) are all variously compromised alternatives to the kid’s parents who are in the process of breaking up. A vengeful patriarch (Joe Don Baker) from nearby eventually forces a climactic shoot-out, but the movie’s real interest resides in the oddly tender tragicomedy that emerges from the characters’ heedless low-rent dreaming. Pageant Theatre. Rated PG-13.