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Mudbound (Drama, History) (2017)

 

Director: Dee Rees

Writers: Virgil Willaims, Dee Rees, Hillary Jordan (Based on Novel by)

Starring: Jason Clarke, Carey Mulligan, Jason Mitchell, Garrett Hedlund

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Directly after WWII, Mudbound takes places on a large plot of land inhabited by the Jackson family. Former slaves on these grounds, Hap Jackson (Rob Morgan) and his sizeable family hope to one day fulfil their dreams and construct a large home on the hectares of land Hap is glad to hold. Before long the McAllan family moves in, sooner than expected; lead by expectant father Henry (Jason Clarke) who's been swindled supposedly purchasing the land Hap and his family have been living on but finding out that the seller is long gone and so is the money invested.

The slow-paced period piece that is Mudbound is perhaps one of the most recent standouts in its depiction of an America still not having come to terms with an equal society. It's a fragile balance between the two low-income families being forced to live in close proximity; a generational story is gradually unfolded on the Mississippi Delta's farming grounds. Director Dee Rees' recreation of Hillary Jordan's novel is a confrontation with history. Racial tension dominating the foreground. The singular setting being used as the primary backdrop for the characters do the rest of the movie justice, with so much attention going to the character work it is surprising that this film went below my radar for the time it has, it might not be the first to feature a story like this. Still, it's unequalled in its attempt. Later in the film, with most relationships and the social hierarchy firmly established, the son of Jackson and the younger brother of McAllen who both served in WWII, return to their families on the farm. Jamie McAllen has different views than his elder brother Henry, not to mention his father Pappy McAllen (Jonathan Banks). Bonding over their time in the war Jamie and Ronsel (Jason Mitchell) show the southerners something different, a disregard for the colour of one's skin which warrants wonder from the Jackson family and criticism from the McAllan's.

The shifting attitudes, fickle personalities and aversive glares create a social warzone. The returning sons struggle to adjust in a social construct vastly different from what they've grown to see. With a relatively small cast featuring multiple familiar faces such as Jonathan Banks, Rob Morgan and Jason Clarke, the writers and it's director manage to blend subjects like molasses in rye bread. The setting and style are excellently done, balancing the grim with some more light-hearted moments all leading to a harsh reality check at the end.

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Verdict

Even if we all end up face down in the mud, take a chance on this film while you still can.

8,1