Read our first impressions of Mudbound from TIFF 2017
Mudbound follows the trials and tribulations of two families bound to the land they farm, whilst also weathering the elements of social hierarchy and racism of the post World War 2 Mississippi Delta. At its heart, the film is about the simultaneously unifying and polarizing power of family — whether it’s your blood or chosen.
Directed by Dee Rees, Mudbound is based on the novel by Hilary Jordan. The film follows the McAllan family after Henry (Jason Clarke) decides to uproot his wife Laura (Carey Mulligan) and their two little girls from the metropolis of Memphis to rural rough farmland, accompanied by white supremacist Pappy (Jonathan Banks).
“I dream in brown,” Laura narrates as she and her children make their way through the mud. Mulligan is impressive in her role of an “old spinster” who came to know the love of a man who dictates where she will live and what she will do. Bound by her duty as a wife, Mulligan creates a fully fleshed character who is dealing with her husband’s set backs with grace — but also with a gritty reality with a immersive bodily portrayal.
Henry’s land is currently being share cropped by Hap and Florence Jackson (Rob Morgan, Mary J. Blige) whose family has worked the land for generations. The Jacksons work hard to provide for their children and wish them a better future. Blige disappears into her role as the quiet but strong mother. Despite her strength, there’s tenderness there, and hers are some of the most enjoyable scenes in the film: whether it’s when she dances with her husband, eats a chocolate bar from her son, or dutifully supports a shoulder to cry on for Laura.
Both families have members who’ve returned from the war. Jamie McAllan (Garrett Hedlund) and Ronsel Jackson (Jason Mitchell) serve overseas in WWII and find themselves grappling with what’s next after returning to the South. They forge a strong friendship, based on their experiences in the war, but also a genuine respect. Their alliance is fraught and violently challenged by the brutal realities of the Jim Crow South.
Mudbound was filmed just outside of New Orleans on farmland belonging to St. Joseph’s Plantation, an active sugar cane farm. The farm was not far from St. James Parish close to the infamous Oak Alley — one of the most photographed plantations in US. For a story about life on the land, the location and shots of the landscape set a pitch perfect tone for the story.
Mudbound is a sweeping story filled with the realities and struggles of love, war, and living off the land. The interwoven narratives work well to create fully fleshed characters, all of whom have their own crosses to bear.
Mudbound premieres exclusively on Netflix, Friday November 17th.