Based on Hillary Jordan’s novel, “Mudbound” is a major film attempting to shed light on race relations and societal juxtapositions against a background of struggles on the land in the Mississippi Delta. Set after World War II, the film reflects an effort by director Dee Rees, who wrote the screenplay with Virgil Williams, to tell a sweeping story in intimate terms.
At the core are two families, one white, the other African-American, each with a tough existence, but as one might expect, the black family suffering most as a result of the discrimination prevalent at the time in a South with the KKK still marauding.
An excellent cast contributes toward making the various characters lifelike, and the filmmakers have opted for individual narrations to both further the story and increase our understanding of the characters and what they face.
Henry McAllan, played by Jason Clarke, with his wife Laura portrayed stoically by Carey Mulligan, has bought land and a rickety house into which they move. Henry’s younger brother Jamie (Garrett Hedlund) is more aware of Laura’s needs and longings than her husband is. One discerns a possible romantic inclination in him as well. The grandfather in the family, played by Jonathan Banks) is thoroughly reprehensible for his bigotry.
Working the land that McAllan has bought is the Jackson family. Interestingly, popular vocal star Mary J. Blige is cast in the demanding role of Florence Jackson, married to Hap (Rob Morgan), and she makes the most of her dramatic opportunity,
An important part of the plot involves the friendship that develops between Jamie and the Jacksons’s son Ronsel (Jason Mitchell), who bond despite race divisions and the frowning upon white-black relationships. In the military and fighting abroad, Ronsel has experienced relative freedom for the first time and a relationship with a white German woman that will later produce a dangerous situation back home.
The plot becomes extremely intricate, with deeply emotional events occurring, and sometimes the story seems over-extended. However, the humanity that pervades “Mudbound” at times has a powerful impact. The film is also visually potent with excellent cinematography by Rachel Morrison. A Netflix release. Reviewed November 17, 2017.