Plot – Two men return home from World War II to work on a farm in rural Mississippi, where they struggle to deal with racism and adjusting to life after war – Mudbound.
Director – Dee Rees
Released – 2017
From the trailer alone, you could be forgiven for expecting Mudbound to be Netflix’s answer to The Color Purple, Mississippi Burning, or 12 Years a Slave, but with the usual streaming service quality that feels lacking when compared to cinematic releases. Maybe this is the case, but Dee Rees’ adaptation of Hillary Jordan’s novel feels fresh. Her excellent direction coupled with skilled writing and the unusual structure and steady pace of the plot more than make up for the budget’s size and limitations of the small screen to give it a haunting quality that sticks in your mind long afterwards.
Mudbound isn’t a perfect film. The maker’s decision to stick with the multi-character approach from the novel and desire to cover each of the complex issues and themes that Hillary Jordan’s writing covered, means the movie jumps from character to character rather than focusing on a lead surrounded by a supporting cast. And it’s this lack of focus that leaves the film with many undeveloped characters that the audience has a hard time connecting with, hinting that maybe the source material might have been better served in mini-series format.
Where the film excels is the taboos it’s willing to cover, namely the hypocritical treatment of Black soldiers compared to white solders coming home in the wake of WWII. Here the characters are well developed and they explore the complex themes poignantly. Ronsel (Mitchell) a man who embraced the idea that if he fought for his country, things would change for Black people once they liberated Europe, only for things to be exactly the same, if not worse and Jamie (Hedlund) a man suffering from PTSD, who becomes disgusted by his countrymen’s attitudes towards Ronsel, the only man capable of understand what he went through.
In a time when the studios are merging and we find cinemas filled with superhero movies, sequels and remakes, Mudbound is a proof that Netflix is becoming a major player in the film industry, unafraid to tackle subjects and take on projects that the conventional studios normally avoid. Not only that, but they are willing to take a chance on talented directors such as Rees and the results speak for themselves.
If you liked – Da 5 Bloods, Detroit, Fences