I’ll be kicking my film blog off with a review of Mudbound, recently distributed for Netflix, and I hope you like it! Dee Rees directed the film and as an African-American female, she proves a good fit for this material in which there’s horrible racism on show.
This racism comes from a 1940s Mississippi setting, and mostly where a white ethnic family led by Pappy (Jonathan Banks) and Henry (Jason Clarke), essentially bully an African-American family. On that side, they are fronted by Ronsel (Jason Mitchell), and increasing tension from these clashes happen. Only, and effectively, do Ronsel, Laura (Carey Mulligan) – Henry’s wife, and Jamie (Garret Hedlund) – Henry’s brother, showing love in their own ways help balance things.
And by opening on a flash-forward of Henry and Jamie digging a grave, where Jamie delivers a reflective, almost wistful, voiceover, absolutely establishes the scene for love to potentially enter as some kind of counter-force. Underlining this is a cut over to Laura on a rural farm with her kids. But, all too sadly and obviously, combating the idea of love shows namely in the case of how Ronsel suffers. For example, after he and Henry return from fighting in World War Two, he tries leaving a store from the front door. Pappy holds him back with racist insults. Making matters even more effective, Henry and Laura are both present, yet are both passive, and Dee Rees only gradually builds empathy. Ronsel personalises this as well by saying at one point – “Over there [in Europe], I was a liberator. People lined up in the streets waiting for us. Throwing flowers and cheering. And here, I’m just another nigger pushing a plow.”
So, as things get progressively worse, and love contrastingly builds its way against this, we get a clear enough, complicated snapshot of this 1940s time in America. Dee Rees should be a filmmaker to watch.