Film Review: Mudbound

Dee Rees’ drama Mudbound has a poetic quality that is immensely appealing. The film is well directed and finely acted.

Two families live in rural Mississippi; one black, one white. Both have young men who are sent to fight in World War II. Although their war experiences are similar, their home life is ever segregated…

Based on the novel by Hillary Jordan’s novel, Dee Rees and Virgil Williams’ screenplay is beautiful. The narrative is told predominantly through monologues. The four main characters have their story to tell, and Mudbound jumps from monologues from these to scenes of dialogue and action. This device works well as it helps viewers to see the events through distinct eyes, but ones that are sympathetic and empathetic.

The monologues in particular have a poetic quality to them. The language is beautiful, and works well to envelop viewers into the period and the location. This beauty is matched by the visual aesthetic. Rees and cinematographer Rachel Morrison capture both the idyllic nature of the setting and the more realistic dirt and grime of such a life.

Characters are well developed, particularly the central female ones. Both Florence and Laura have family at the centre of their worlds, yet their attitudes are distinct and their relationship with wider society is widely divergent. The similarities between Jamie and Ronsel is wonderful to watch; this strand is hopeful even though it feels like it can’t end well. Carey Mulligan, Rob Morgan, and Garrett Hedlund are particularly strong in a good cast.

The themes that occupy Mudbound revolve around race and society in a setting which feels archaic. The film seems very believable in its events, for better and worse. As much as the film is about race in this period, the film also has something to say about friendship and family relationships. Rees handles her subject matter with detail and consideration.

Mudbound is a film with heart. Rees shows her considerable talent; it will be interesting to see what she tackles next

Mudbound is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2017.

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