Director/writer Dee Ree’s riveting masterpiece, focuses on racial divisiveness after WWII, in rural Mississippi; two families: “McAllan”, husband and wife “Laura” and “Henry” (Carrie Mulligan, Jason Clarke), brother “Jamie McAllan” (Garrett Hedlund) and “Pappy” (Jonathan Banks); “Jackson”, “Hap” and “Florence” (Rob Morgan, Mary J.Blige) and son “Ronsel” (Jason Mitchell); except for ownership, both families live within the eye of poverty’s threatening shadows. Laura and Florence, women of substance, recognize their limitations as females beholden to the dictates of a masculine culture. Henry and Hap, with dignity and grudging respect, tread gingerly as owner and employee, wishing, praying for a profitable harvest; at the whim of perpetual rain and ubiquitous mud, assuredness of success, is never theirs.
“Mudbound’s” intensity and intelligence lies in parallels drawn between Jamie McAllan and Ronsel Jackson; approximately the same age, war vets; Jamie, a fighter pilot, suffers from PSTD, self-medicating with whiskey; Ronsel, a sergeant, who left behind a Bavarian, fair-skinned lover, suffers ceaseless discrimination upon his return; commencing in trepidation, their lives find cohesiveness in shared experiences; simultaneously fueling vituperative ire from the KKK; “Pappy Jackson” a metaphor for poisonous racism, pulsating in the veins of those still bemoaning the North’s victory in 1865. Banks’s performance is chillingly, redolently evil.
Ree allows the narrative to evolve, told in the first person by Laura, Henry, Hap, Florence, Jamie and Ronsel, enabling the viewer to voyeuristically invade their psyches, dissecting their decisions; “Mudbound”, more than a commentary on the times, addresses the human condition; the characters are not “black and white” but varying hues of gray; they are worthy of our investment and scrutiny, therein lies its potency and power.