Set in rural Vermont, the film The Mudge Boy offers a picturesque background for a somewhat uncomfortable story. Duncan Mudge (played by Emile Hirsch) is a young and sensitive teenage farmboy. Having just lost his mother to a heart attack, Duncan and his grieving father (Richard Jenkins) have grown somewhat estranged. Left to his own devices, Duncan processes his grief all on his own, spending all of his time with his pet chicken, dressing in his mother’s old clothes, and using her old bicycle as his primary means of transportation.
A gaggle of teenage boys in a red pickup frequently floats in and out of this story, mostly to heckle Duncan for being the weird and sensitive “chicken boy.” However, Duncan catches the eye of Perry (played by Thoman Guiry), one these mischievous and alcohol-driven farmhands who is secretly being abused by his alcoholic father.
When Perry and Duncan are alone, their feelings for one another become evident, though often fueled by sexual need and self shame more than love itself. In a pivotal scene, Duncan is forced to put on his mother’s wedding dress before Perry has sex with him. The event is a sadomasochistic scene where trust and vulnerability blend with adolescent aggression and sexuality.
“Graced with a gentle, elegantly unobtrusive score, the drama is handsomely shot in peaceful rural settings, often from detached angles that underscore its melancholy mood.”
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The beauty of the Vermont landscape and innocence of a young and grieving Duncan are often juxtaposed with the awkwardness of teen sex and the unintended humor of a chicken making an appearance in almost every scene. Not the most noble of creatures, the chicken is very symbolic of Duncan’s frailty and erratic emotions, albeit a rather humorous symbol. Still, despite the feathered distraction from the sincerity of this story, writer and director Michael Burke painstakingly delivers a detailed, sensitive story of grief, sex, love, and isolationism in The Mudge Boy. Review our Gay Themed Films Here