Mudbound (2017)


Cast includes: Carey Mulligan (An Education), Garrett Hedlund (On the Road), Jonathan Banks (Breaking Bad), Jason Clarke (Zero Dark Thirty), Jason Mitchell (Straight Outta Compton), Rob Morgan (Godless), Mary J. Blige (The Help)
Director: Dee Rees (Pariah)
Genre: Drama (234 minutes) From a novel by Hillary Jordan


Huffington Post

We hear the digging before we see it. “We ain’t gonna make it.” “We have to.” A storm’s coming, and the grave will fill with water. Henry and Jamie McAllan seem to have been arguing, but for now, they’ve got to get Pappy buried. They seal the coffin, and the small family takes it out to the grave. The brothers need a hand lowering it into the ground. When Hap Jackson and his family come across the muddy road in their wagon with all their worldly possessions in the back, Henry wants to ask for help. The stony gazes on all the black faces say they’re not in a mood for doing favors for white landowners. But Henry asks anyway. We next hear the voice of Laura, taking us back to Memphis when she first met Henry. She wasn’t in love with him, but she was 31 and in danger of becoming an old maid. Jamie, the younger brother, was the one who made her “sparkle,” but he “has that effect on girls… they sparkle for him.” Henry wasn’t romantic, but he was solid… they married and started a family. On December 7, 1941, everything changed. For starters… Jamie joined the air force. 

In Mississippi, Hap’s family is saying goodbye to their son, Ronsel. He’s going into the army. Florence says, “it’s bad luck to watch someone leave,” so she turns away. Their oldest son’s leaving is a setback for their plans of saving enough money to buy land of their own… but they’re used to setbacks. The McAllans and the Jacksons are brought together when Henry announces he’s bought a farm in Mississippi. He has also rented a grand house with room for everyone, including the disagreeable Pappy. But it turns out that he was cheated… the owner of the house kept Henry’s $100 and sold the house to someone else. “I never thought a son of mind would be so damn stupid,” says Pappy. The McAllans have nowhere to go but the sharecropper’s cottage on the farm… near the Jackson’s cottage. “Maybe that’s when the problems started,” says Florence. Tensions run high in the McAllan’s cottage… Laura isn’t getting rid of the piano to make more room for Pappy, even though taking a stand is difficult. Henry wastes no time calling on Hap when he needs help… yet Pappy lashes out against “coloreds” at every turn.

Jamie and Ronsel both end up in Europe. While they don’t cross paths, they have related experiences. While Ronsel is relieved when the war’s over, he’s come to appreciate the freedom of being just an ordinary man while in Europe. Back in Mississippi, he has to remember to ride in the back of the bus, use the back door and apologize to whites who wrong him. Every character in this well written narrative has a backstory and frustrations… they each have modest goals for the future. But somehow, they’re on a collision course. For moviegoers who’ve had no personal experience with the Jim Crow south, the events may seem shocking. But sadly, this story has a familiar trajectory. Beautiful direction, acting and cinematography bring a novel by Hillary Jordan to life in a powerful way. There are movies about slavery and there are movies about the civil rights movement, but few that cover race relations in the years in between. While Mudbound tells a small story about specific people, it’s part of a larger tapestry with many similar threads. Laura McAllan often serves as our guide into a place that may feel foreign to most of us. Moving to the farm wasn’t her idea, but she tries to make the best of it… “When I dream of the farm, I dream of mud.”

popcorn rating

4 popped kernels

In 1940s Mississippi, white and black families might share the same land… but certainly not the same reality

Popcorn Profile

Rated: R (Language, Violence)
Audience: Grown-ups
Gender Style: Neutral
Distribution: Mainstream Limited and Streaming
Mood: Sober
Tempo: Cruises Comfortably
Visual Style: Unvarnished Realism  
Nutshell: Race relations post-WWII
Language: True to life

Social Significance: Timely Topic and Thought Provoking

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