I am celebrating Mud this week by recommending writer-director Jeff Nichols’ Shotgun Stories. Nichols followed Shotgun Stories with Take Shelter and now Mud, which together constitute his “Arkansas Trilogy”. Shotgun Stories was also the breakout film for Nichols’ favorite leading man, Michael Shannon, who has since gone on to Boardwalk Empire, next week’s The Ice Man and the upcoming blockbuster Man of Steel.
Shotgun Stories opens with three brothers finding about the death of their no good father. He had abandoned them and their mother in poverty – and was such an indifferent father that he named his children Son, Boy and Kid. After walking away from his family, he found religion and started another, more prosperous, family with another set of three sons. The three older sons crash the funeral to express their bitterness, and it becomes clear that the two sets of brothers are headed for a clash.
Shannon plays the oldest brother, who has been forged into stony strength and determination by deprivation and long-smoldering resentment. Nichols uses that resentment to light a fuse that burns fitfully but inexorably for most of Shotgun Stories’ 92 minutes.
Shotgun Stories ranked #7 on my Best Movies of 2007. Shotgun Stories is available on DVD from Netflix and streaming from Netflix and iTunes.