The Guardian's Jason Solomons gushed that "Mud" has "the look and feel of an American indie classic" and called it "a surefire best picture nominee at next year's Oscars." Solomons wrote that Matthew McConaughey delivered the best performance of his career in the film.
Variety critics Justin Chang and Peter Debruge seemed to like "Mud." Chang said Nichols' film and Wes Anderson's "Moonrise Kingdom," both "conceal deep emotional reserves beneath their respectively arch and conventional surfaces." Debruge said it "was also one of my favorites of a strong, if not exactly stellar, Cannes. Jeff Nichols' third feature arrives already feeling like a classic, partly because it echoes 'Huckleberry Finn,' but also because it so elegantly addresses what masculinity and family really mean in the heartland."
The Hollywood Reporter's Todd McCarthy wrote that while "Mud" feels "less adventurous and unsettling" than "Take Shelter" it "remains a well carpentered piece of work marked by some fine performances and resilient thematic fiber."
Pop Matters critic Jordan Cronk wrote that "Mud" should "finally establish Nichols as a prominent American indie craftsman and a young auteur worthy of taking small risks on in return for sharply observed character pieces disguised as genre outlets. If Take Shelter was the manifestation of one deteriorating man’s inner turmoil writ large across a thriller template, then Mud is the naive expression of a child’s curiosity streamlined across the same turbulent format."
But The Playlist's Simon Abrams harshed all over "Mud," calling it an "underwhelming follow-up to the masterfully visceral 'Take Shelter,'" and "a shallow and contrived coming of age story."