His latest, Mud, is his finest yet, a heart-warming and intelligent yet disarmingly honest coming-of-age tale as two young boys learn about the world from Matthew McConaughey’s titular drifter.

Set in Nichol’s home state of Arkansas, Mud is a beautifully observed tale about the imperfections of love and relationships as 14-year-old Ellis (outstanding newcomer Tye Sheridan) looks for a father figure amidst his parents’ dissolving marriage, his best mate’s parental stand-in and loving uncle Galen (frequent Nichols’ collaborator Michael Shannon, soon to be seen in Man Of Steel), and Matthew McConaughey’s wild-eyed, philosophical Mud, whose obsessive love with a troubled Reese Witherspoon fuels the violence that follows him. 

McConaughey’s enigmatic Mud is layered with mystique, charm and helpless naivety – it’s a turn that makes the likes of Ghosts Of Girlfriends Past a distant memory – with winning support in Sam Shephard’s wisened river bank dweller and Sarah Paulson as Ellis’ under-fire mother.

Sheridan shines as the vulnerable, youthful and yet inherently strong Ellis, who finds a mentor in Mud despite his shortcomings. 

Nichols throws in genre elements with the arrival of a pack of Mud-hounding bounty hunters, allowing him to indulge in some set-piece showboating. It is the human drama of Ellis’ search for a father figure that affects most, though. 

Starring: Tye Sheridan, Matthew McConaughey, Michael Shannon | 12A | 130mins | Out May 10 

Good for: Seeing a contemporary American classic.