A movie review by Marivir R. Montebon
New York City – What can I say? Mudbound has garnered the most glorious of movie reviews since it came out early November.
At the Lincoln Center Cinema, I had the best chance to be in a QA with genius director Dee Rees (stalwart of the movie Pariah) just before the film rolled for the 7 PM schedule that rainy Saturday. “The movie is all about building relationships, and chemistry around each character,” Rees told an eager audience on how she chose and let each actor evolve.
The film, according to Rees, is “tonal.” And tonal it is, all right, that made feel me like a real spectator of the muddy lives of two families in the Mississippi delta in the Jim Crow era. Rees highlights the black and white families with equal treatment and exposure, there could not be definitive lead and supporting roles. Each life is intertwined with one another, like the cob web that disintegrates when one strand is disrupted.
Mudbound tells of the entangled relationships of poor white people, whose economy stands on the backs of their dirt-poor black sharecroppers in the rabidly racist post-war America. Mud, both literal and figurative sense, represented the lives that were bound on land and the inescapable slavery of both mind and gut.
Despite its brutality, every character in the movie speaks of hope. The ugly face of racism and hatefulness could be in its worst in this film, but Rees plays up love and optimism in the stark reality of the Delta. As the film rolled for more than two hours, I was anxious as to how the story would end.
Mudbound revolves on the friendship developed between two WWII young veterans, Ronsel (Jason Mitchelle) and Jamie (Garrett Hedlund), both torn after surviving the war in Germany. Jamie, turning his trauma to alcohol, is the younger brother of Henry, landlord of Ronsel’s parents. Ronsel meanwhile gets increasingly frustrated by the continued discrimination despite being a war hero.
Rees has equally placed importance on the two women, Laura (Carey Mulligan), wife to Henry McAllan (Jason Clarke) and Florence (Mary J. Blige), wife to Hap (Rob Morgan). Both women, strong in conviction and earnest in raising their children well, develop a supportive relationship that is forced by necessity and compassion.
Then you see the brotherly relationship of the responsible Henry and happy-go-lucky Jamie which is of love and disdain and the contrasting characters of the patriarchs Pappy (Jonathan Banks) and Hap, who by their extremely opposite parenting styles, literally earn the ire and love they both deserve.
I was narrating to my daughter Nikki the entire film, especially cringing on the part where I cried at the horrifying scene of Ronsel and Jamie with the Klu Klux Klan. She asked me to stop. Okay, I said, I will let you watch it yourself. My treat, as I had earlier offered.
Mudbound, from the novel of Hillary Jordan, is one of the best stories ever produced into a film. It was what it was then, as it is now. This film is a must watch, a must win; that will be the day when Netflix ordains itself triumphant over Hollywood in the upcoming Academy awards. Asked if she was optimistic for Mudbound harvesting awards during the Oscar’s, Rees quickly said, “Yes, definitely. That would be great.” (Featured photo from Google. War veterans Jamie and Ronsel become friends in the Jim Crow era in the movie Mudbound.)