- Nikki Baughan
- 13 November 2017
Dee Rees delivers an authentic yet devastatingly pertinent drama set in Mississippi during and after WWII
The landscape of Mississippi may have been built on the farmlands that sustain it but its cultural identity is largely shaped by intolerance and discrimination that run as deep and dark as its abundant mud. While this adaptation of the bestselling novel by Hillary Jordan is set during and immediately after World War II, it speaks to both America's earlier offences and its continuing injustices.
Told through the interlinking stories of two families – one white, one black – Mudbound uses the everyday experiences of ordinary folk to explore its wider themes. Henry McAllan (Jason Clarke) has relocated from the city with his wife Laura (Carey Mulligan) and brother Jamie (Garrett Hedlund) to try and make a go of farming. He inherits tenants Hap Jackson (Rob Morgan) and his family, who engage in daily servitude in pursuit of a singular ambition: to purchase a small piece of land of their own.
Like Jamie, Hap's son Ronsel (Jason Mitchell) served in the war, and both have returned home much changed by the experience, only to find Mississippi exactly the same as when they left. Jamie and Ronsel's struggle to reintegrate into this segregated society after risking their lives for American democracy brings them together, their friendship building to a climax that, although shocking, is entirely honest in its brutal inhumanity.
Director Dee Rees, who co-wrote the screenplay with Virgil Williams, takes a measured approach; the deck might be firmly stacked against the Jacksons, yet the film makes it clear that life isn't easy for anyone working the Delta. Through Laura's meek deference to Henry we see how women, too, were treated like second-class citizens. Jamie is clearly suffering from post-traumatic stress, but the only support he can find is in the bottom of a bottle.
Immediate and visceral, Mudbound boasts powerful, and devastating, contemporary relevance. But, as portrayed by the exceptional ensemble, these characters are also authentic products of their time, their individual voiceovers revealing difficult truths in language that is poetic and profound.
In selected cinemas and on Netflix from Fri 17 Nov.