Director: Dee Rees
Rating: ★★★★★| 5 stars
They worked until the sweated. They sweated until they bled. They bled until they died. Clawing at the hard, brown, back that would never be theirs. – Hap Jackson
Every time a film that deals with racism and the lasting impact of slavery comes out there will always be someone who says that the film is Oscar bait. As if an Academy overpopulated by white men is rushing to acknowledge the work of black filmmakers, scriptwriters, actors, and the hundreds of other jobs involved in making a film come to life. Worse than these people are those that say that slavery and racism are a thing of the past. The events of Mudbound take place following World War II. In the grand scheme of things, it is a recent event. The film itself, is deserving of every single piece of praise it receives and so much more. The writing, directing, and directing work together to produce a wonderful and politically relevant film.
The film follows two families, one white and one black, living in the America south during and following World War II. One son from each of the families, Ronsel Jackson and Jamie Mac Allan, go to war. They return to America, suffering the after effects of the war, to find their country unchanged in the interim period. The two form a friendship based on their shared experiences. A friendship that leads to serious consequences due to their races. The story also expands beyond Ronsel and Jamie. The audience gains insight into the families of the two boys and their experiences, realities, hopes and dreams. And through it all we see the lasting impact of slavery, the racial tensions that continue to exist in the south, and the racial violence and hatred that permeates the American south.
The writing of the film is excellent. In Dee Rees’ own words, Mudbound is the story of the war overseas and the war at home and often how the war at home is bloodier. Throughout the film there are parallels between the occurrences on the farms and the happenings during the war. There are also parallels between Ronsel and Jamie’s experiences of the war. These obvious parallels serve to cement Rees’ vision of the film. The audience is able to see how the character are impacted by both of the wars. The writing is also defined by voiceovers by the characters. In a film with a large core cast of characters, it allows the audience to gain insight into characters and their motivations in an easier way. The voiceovers are not tacky, but rather add a deep sense of emotion to the film and I believe were a wise directorial decision.
Good writing in a film cannot be successful without good acting and Mudbound has a very strong ensemble cast. Everyone was on their game and no actor seemed noticeably weaker than anyone else. The cast has already won some best ensemble awards. There is an outstanding performance by Jason Mitchell who plays Ronsel Jackson. And I have to give a very well deserved honourable mention to Mary J Bligh who plays Florence Jackson, Ronsel’s mother. Some are calling Mitchell a serious contender for best actor during awards season and I would love for that to be the case.
Overall, the film is very emotionally heavy and definitely not for light viewing. The issues that the film addresses remain eternally relevant even many decades on from when Mudbound is set. Due to these relevant themes it is an important film that needed to be made and needs to be watched in our increasingly divisive times.