Mudbound (2017)

Director: Dee Rees
Writer: Virgil Williams, Dee Rees
Based on: Hillary Jordan‘s novel
Cast: Garrett Hedlund, Jason Mitchell, Carey Mulligan, Jason Clarke, Rob Morgan, Mary J. Blige, Jonathan Banks
Seen on: 05.04.2020

Content Note: (critical treatment of) racism, racial violence

Henry McAllan (Jason Mitchell) buys a farm in the last corner of Mississippi without discussing it with his wife Laura (Carey Mulligan) who is not thrilled. Nevertheless, they, their children and Henry’s cranky, racist father (Jonathan Banks) make their way there. The farm is being worked on by Hap Jackson (Rob Morgan) and his family who have been tending the land without much hope of ownership for generations. The McAllans and the Jacksons not only have the land in common, though under completely different conditions, but als World War II. Henry’s brother Jamie (Garrett Hedlund) is a soldier as is Hap’s son Roncel (Jason Mitchell). But the racial divide looms large in more than one way.

Mudbound is an excellent film that carries quite a punch and managed to not only not make me hate voice-over, but actually appreciate it. It’s definitely not easy to watch, but it is even more definitely really good.

The film poster with all of the main characters artfully arranged.

I’ve had Mudbound on my watchlist for a while and I kept pushing it off because I knew it would be a heavy hitter and that’s not necessarily something I want to watch everyday. But I finally gave myself the necessary kick in the butt to go for it, and I’m glad I finally did. I really wouldn’t have wanted to miss a film that is so well-made about such an important topic.

But still. Even going in prepared for some dark things, the film really weighs heavily. That is not a complaint, it has to be heavy, but it is still a lot to take. And while the ending does end on a positive note, I’m still not sure if I actually believe it. I want to, but I doubt it’s “real”. It’s a bold choice for the film, but one that made it even stronger for me.

Jamie (Garrett Hedlund) and Roncel (Jason Mitchell) drinking together.

The cast is really great, every single one of them. Hedlund has probably the flashiest role, standing out easily, but also the more quiet performances by Blige and Morgan really struck a chord with me. And I could feel with Laura so much – another great turn from Mulligan. But really, I could name every single one of the (main) cast and point out how good they were. This really is an ensemble piece.

How great it actually is became clear to me when the voice-overs never became annoying for me. I’m usually not a great fan and more often than not, they actively take away from the film for me. But in this case the switch between perspectives combined with the beautiful language used in them (I don’t know if it was taken directly from the novel this is based on, I haven’t read it), it actually worked the entire time and it enriched the film.

And as if that wasn’t enough, the film has also beautiful visuals. I simply have no complaints about this film at all.

Florence (Mary J. Blige) and Laura (Carey Mulligan) in the kitchen together.

Summarizing: Very good.

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