The Mule

Eastwood’s Sense of Humor

Few movie directors captured the essence of humor so skillfully as Clint Eastwood, in his 2019 movie ‘The Mule’. Professional criticists collectively overlooked it. According to Rotten Tomatoes, their consensus is: “A flawed yet enjoyable late-period Eastwood entry, The Mule stubbornly retains its footing despite a few missteps on its occasionally unpredictable path”.



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Humor is a complex notion. Look up the term in Merriam Webster’s, for example, and you may verify they have no clue. There is not the slightest hint of any distinction between the terms ‘humor’ and ‘joke’, while of course, such a distinction not only exists, but it is quintessential. Jokes are primarily short fictive stories meant to make people laugh. Humor is neither of these: it does not imply short fictive stories, nor is it primarily meant to make people laugh. Humor is based on historical events, rather than on fiction, and it is primarily meant for survival, rather than to make people laugh. True, humor is the better, the more it makes people laugh. Though whereas the quality of a joke is determined by how long and how loud people laugh about it, such is not the case for humor. The quality of humor is much more difficult to assess, because humor supposes a lifestyle. With humor, one smiles on life “like a farmer with toothache”, as Abaelardus’ co-nationals appropriately express it. In this booklet, Abaelardus describes in detail Eastwood’s sense of humor, as displayed in his brilliant 2018 movie ‘The Mule’. The reason for Abaelardus’ choice is that Eastwood captures the essence of humor like no movie director before him. Remarkably, there is not a single joke in the whole movie. The painful situation of the lead character (Earl Stone), who made a mess of his closest family ties, does not really provide the ideal background for jokes. Yet, every single shot of the movie testifies of a wonderful sense of humor. This humor permits Earl Stone to appreciate the magic and beauty of life, in spite of all suffering and hardship it presumes.


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