As much a trip into American myth as a coming-of-age tale, Mud initially looks to be a tougher prospect than it proves.
Two 14-year-old pals, Ellis (Tye Sheridan) and Neckbone (Jacob Lofland), exploring a remote island on the Mississippi, discover a boat lodged in a tree.
This Herzogian spectacle turns out to shelter a scapegrace outlaw and yarn-spinner named Mud (Matthew McConaughey), on the run for killing a man.
When he asks for their help to escape, Ellis discovers the hard way that love isn't always going to save a man.
The film, bolstered by Reese Witherspoon as an old flame of Mud's and Sam Shepard as his mentor, has the look of class if not much in the way of plausibility or tension.
As well as obvious genuflections to Huck Finn, it also nods to The Go-Between and Great Expectations, perhaps among the texts sacred to writer-director Jeff Nichols.
McConaughey continues his rehab as a serious screen actor, and the two boys are excellent, but Mud is lightweight stuff that will slide off the memory in no time.