MUDBOUND – A Review by Cynthia Flores
Mudbound is Netflix's horse in the race for Oscar gold and rightfully so. That’s why it’s so annoying that it will only get a one week run in a few cities across the US to qualify for awards season. If you really want to see it on the big screen, in all its glory, then you gotta take a trip to Houston because that’s the closest place to us that it will play in a theater. Other than that, you’ll have to see it on Netflix on a screen near you. Speaking of screens, please, PLEASE watch it on your big screen at home and not your cell phone monitor. Part of the beauty of this film is its cinematography. Rachel Morrison shot it and working with the director (Dee Rees) explored the work of the great photographers of the 1940s. Morrison chose to utilize naturalistic lighting and worked with the landscape to craft the amazing look and feel of this moving story. I think it would be great for her to be the first woman to win an Oscar for her work. Yes, it’s that good.
The film is told in voice-overs, so you get to know the point of view of two very different families in Mississippi.
First, is the Jacksons, a proud black family of sharecroppers led by their hard working, stoic father Hap (Rob Morgan) and his loving wife Florence (Mary J. Blige). They’re saving up and dreaming of buying their own land when they have to send their oldest son Ronsel (Jason Mitchell) off to fight in the war in Europe. Once there, Ronsel deals with the horrors of combat but he also gets to experience freedom from the racism he grew up in. He finds solace from the war in the arms of a beautiful, blonde German woman that he falls in love with.
Secondly is the McAllan family who we first get to meet through a spinster woman, Laura (Carey Mulligan) who marries into the family when she says yes to the proposal of Henry (Jason Clarke), the oldest son of this white southern family. He’s an engineer and a quiet man that gives her a nice home in the city near her folks. She’s happy being a mother and wife until her mother-in-law passes away and Henry tells her that they’ll be moving to a farm to take care of his father, Pappy McAllan (Jonathan Banks), who is a mean old man and proud KKK member. Oh, and did I mention that to do this he is moving his whole family back to the fields of Mississippi to become farmers. So while the family is setting up in their new home, which is not much more than a shed, they meet their sharecroppers, the Jacksons. During this time of upheaval, Laura’s rakishly good looking single brother-in-law Jamie (Garrett) is off being a hot shot pilot in War World II and diving into a bottle of booze to cope with the nightmare of war all around him.
Once both families get their soldiers back, the two shell-shocked men meet in town and become friends despite their color differences. They’re able to help each other start to overcome the PTSD they both suffer from. They both have other crosses to bear. Jamie, even though he went to war and came back a hero, is still the black sheep of the family and his father and he are always going round and round. Ronsel has to struggle not only with coming back to a country he fought for and being told that he needed to learn his place again as black man, but also finding out that the woman he loved when he was in Europe had his child.
I will not do spoilers here, but I will say that this film does a brilliant job showing the differences between what it was like being poor as a white family, and being dirt poor as a black family in Mississippi in those days. Mudbound does not shy away at showing the brutalities of war, poverty, and the savagery the Ku Klux Klan rained down on everyone at that dark time in American history.
Mudbound has the look and feel of the kind of movie that you would get if the black and white masterpiece film Grapes Of Wrath and the classic original television movie Roots had gotten together and had a baby. Mudbound creates that compelling a mood and feeling of this particular time and place in America. That’s why it could possibly be up for Best Film as well as other categories this award season.
Mudbound is not just a bummer film about all the troubles and race issues of that time in Mississippi. It’s not the typical “Look what the white devils have done” kind of film. Instead it's a “Look what we all did and how we got thru it” kinda thing. The film let’s you see injustice at it’s worst but leaves you with the hope that love will win out in the end. For that reason I give it a resounding A rating and hope you will see it soon.
Directed by Dee Rees
Written By Virgil Williams, Dee Rees from a novel by Hillary Jordan
Selig Rating A
Running Time 2hrs 14min
Limited Release Nov 17th in other cities and on Netflix
Starring: Carey Mulligan, Garrett Hedlund, Jason Clarke, Jonathan Banks, Jason Mitchell, Mary J. Blige, Rob Morgan
The Selig Rating Scale:
A – Excellent movie, well worth the price.
B – Good movie
C – OK movie
D – No need to rush. Save it for a rainy day.
F – Good that I saw it on the big screen but wish I hadn't paid for it.