Dee Rees' 'Mudbound' is astounding and marvelously crafted (NYFF Review)
I'm always disturbed by people who don’t want to talk about race — as if it’s not ingrained in the fabric of our country. To act as though race is not at the core of who we are as a people — as if race doesn’t stand at the center of how our country operates today, in the 21st century. Dee Rees’ sprawling World War II set epic, Mudbound serves up our history in a spellbinding tale of two families, one Black and one white whose lives crash together on a cotton farm in 1940’s Mississippi. Based on the stunning 2008 debut novel by Hillary Jordan – Mudbound follows the McAllan family, Laura (Carey Mulligan) and her husband Henry (Jason Clarke) who move from Memphis, Tennessee to rural Mississippi. Henry, desperate to put his own stamp on the world buys a cotton farm, uprooting his wife and two daughters. Endlessly grateful that her husband saved her from the fate of being an old maid when he married her at the ripe old age of 31 – Laura goes along with her husband’s plan, leaving behind her city-bred sensibilities and education for the grit, mud, and violence of the Mississippi cotton farm. With the move, she must also learn to deal with the leer of her racist, Klan-praising father-in-law Pappy (Jonathan Banks).
The McAllan’s arrival on the farm directly impacts the Jacksons – a Black family whose have teetered between sharecroppers and tenants (depending on the crop season) and whose ancestors have worked the land for generations. Florence Jackson – played quietly by Mary J. Blige- is a mother of four, healer and equal partner in her marriage to her husband Hap Jackson – a magnificent and commanding Rob Morgan of Netflix’s Marvel series. Hap is a force. He’s aware of the times in which he lives, but he’s not subservient. He’s a religious man, but he is also willing to take his destiny into his own hands.
Though the McAllans and the Jacksons coexist on the farm for a time with minimal runs ins, the end of the war brings forth major changes. The horrors of the Second World War torment Henry's brother – a charismatic and good looking fighter pilot named Jamie (Garrett Hedlund) and he brings those nightmares with him to his brother’s farm when he returns home. The Jackson’s eldest son Ronsel (portrayed by a marvelous Jason Mitchell) can’t force himself to conform to the wills of the Jim Crow South after living freely as a sergeant oversees. Still reeling from the war, both men find themselves adrift in their home country and their respective homes.
Continue reading at Shadow and Act.