Adaptation Drama

'Mudbound' Film Review: A gritty and honest look at two families' struggles through harsh times

November 13, 2017Sherry Li

Though Mudbound from director Dee Rees is a slow burn, it makes use of its over 2-hour runtime to build up to a fantastically heartbreaking and realistic end, giving insight into the lives of those who lived during the tense and turbulent era of the Jim Crow South.

Adapted by Rees and her co-writer, Virgil Williams, from the novel of the same name by Hillary Jordan, the story chronicles the lives of two southern families — one white and one black — during the end of World War II in the Mississippi Delta. The McAllan family, who used to live in pleasant, suburban Memphis, move to the unforgiving and harsh farms after Henry McAllan (Jason Clarke) decides to fulfill his dream of being a farmer.

Henry brings along his racist father (Jonathan Banks) and his wife, Laura (Carey Mulligan), who was already comfortably settled into her life as a housewife and mother, caring for their two children. Once they arrive at the mud-filled farms, they realize that their new life will be much harder than they anticipated, and they quickly become familiar with the Jackson family — featuring Rob Morgan as Hap and Mary J. Blige as Florence — who are sharecroppers that work on the land. The audience is given a glimpse into their daily lives and struggles, which at first seem worlds apart. However, parallels quickly form, as the farm and its problems brings them together.

Their lives intersect even more when Jamie McAllan, Henry's dashing brother, played by Garrett Hedlund, and Ronsel Jackson (Jason Mitchell), the oldest Jackson son, return from the war and bond over their experiences, becoming friends. Jamie is an undeniably charming character even though he's constantly drunk, while Ronsel, the dutiful son, struggles to deal with the racial tension and inequality he faces upon his return from war.

It is when their characters meet that the film really begins to pick up, as their friendship forms the heart of the film. It also creates tension, as it's a point of contention between other characters — like Pappy McAllan, who cannot see past his racism and hatred. It is through this tension that we are shown the real danger that lies ahead for Ronsel, who experienced better treatment overseas during the war than in his own community.

The movie comes full circle by the end, and the entire cast gives unforgettable and raw performances in this heavy, heart-wrenching film about race, war and loss. Mudbound is primarily character-driven, and everything from the accents, to the clothes, to the sets and cinematography transports you to the southern 1940s. The movie's muted color palette is beautiful, but it also helps make the film feel gritty and honest. It genuinely feels like you're right there with the characters, looking in at how their lives unfold and surviving through it with them.

Mudbound releases November 17th, 2017 from Netflix. The film has an MPAA rating of R for some disturbing violence, brief language and nudity. Its runtime is 2 hrs. 14 min.

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