THE thing about mud is it’s unrelenting. It sticks to everything, bogs down everything and imbues everything with a sense of hopelessness.
That’s something to bear in mind with Mudbound, an epic tale of two people in post-World Warfare II Mississippi, bonded by an unforgiving land, prejudice and unlikely friendship.
This beautifully composed film engrosses from the first shape to the last, amazing in its humanity and its capacity to make out a completely realised world that never feels antiquated despite its 1940s period setting.
Aimed by Dee Rees (Pariah, Bessie), Mudbound decreased on Netflix on Fri within its expanding line-up of original films, and it’s easily among the finest movies the loading service has dished up up so far. Expect this to be an Oscar contender.
When Laura (Carey Mulligan) marries Henry McAllan (Jason Clarke) it’s not because she loves him. She’s over 30 and staring down the barrel of spinsterhood.
Mudbound is Carey Mulligan’s first film in two years. (Steve Dietl/Netflix via AP)
Henry has always harboured dreams of working his own land and he moves his family from an appropriate suburban home to a farm in the Mississippi Delta, together with his just lately widowed and viciously racist daddy Pappy (Jonathan Bankers).
The McAllans subsist in a rickety home with no domestic plumbing or electricity and the mud in front of their stoop never dries, always squelching underfoot. The cotton areas regularly floods from the unyielding rain and the farm’s only way to avoid it, a real wood bridge, is submerged with every storm.
The renter farmers on the land are the Jacksons, Hap (Rob Morgan) and Florence (Mary J. Blige) and their brood of children. Decades of the Jacksons been employed by this little bit of cruel land, usually as slaves.
Despite their dissimilarities, their fortunes are attached together, and at the whims of OUR MOTHER EARTH.
When the battle ends, the Jacksons’ oldest son, Ronsel (Jason Mitchell) comes back from European countries, as will Henry’s charismatic sibling Jamie (Garrett Hedlund), a fighter pilot that faced horrors in the sky.
Ronsel and Jamie bond over their battle experiences and form a forbidden friendship in the Jim Crow-era of segregation in the American south.
The racial politics of Mudbound are stark. The generational attitudes of the Jacksons are a perfect exemplory case of the shifting cultural mores of its time. The older Hap continues to be reverent to white folk, out of dread. He wants a better life but also says to his child: “Don’t battle them, you’re not going to succeed.”
Younger Ronsel can’t reconcile the injustice to be obligated out the backdoor of the overall store in his home after offering his country on the frontline, and being respected and pleasant in Europe.
And Pappy? Well, he’s a mean, old boy of your bitch.
The beauty in Mudbound is not only what’s on the display — it’s what’s not shown, or said. Every performance is extremely restrained, especially Blige, whose face is enigmatic yet completely revealing.
Mudbound may be considered a thoughtful portrayal of have difficulty but it always remembers its spirit and it’s never a difficult slog to view. Part of this is because of the incredible cinematography by Rachel Morrison.
Despite the almost saga-like quality to its tale, Mudbound doesn’t demand, nor would it impose — it simply and amazing lays out the desires and tragedies of people not so different from each other.
Mudbound is streaming now on Netflix.