"Mudbound" movie review
by Caroline Ross' 22
*This may contains Spoilers*
The 2017 drama Mudbound depicts two families, one black (the Jacksons)
and one white (the Mcallans), coexisting on a farm in rural Mississippi during World War II. The Mcallans give up their life in the city to pursue farm life, a dream that Mr. Mcallan has had for a while, and the Jacksons are tenant farmers who work for the Mcallans and dream of owning their own land someday. We see the eldest Jackson son, Ronsel, leave to fight in World War II and then return from the war. Similarly, the Mcallans see the return of Mr Mcallans brother, Jaime, from the war. The film focuses on racism in the south and the relationship that Jaimie and Ronsel develop when they return home.
The first thirty minutes of the film are extremely slow and are spent fleshing out the Mcallans and making Ms. Mcallan, a white woman, a likable character. This combined with the pacing made me skeptical of what direction the movie was heading early on. However, once Ronsel and Jaimie return home for the war, it becomes clear what the film is focusing on and what kind of story it wants to tell. Towards the end of the film, though, another pacing issue occurs when the film quickly picks up pace twenty minutes to the end which results in an abrupt and somewhat unexpected climax.
As for the acting in the film, I thought that most members of the cast did a fantastic job, however some had stronger performances than others. For one, I was surprised to see Mary J. Blige have a pretty big and difficult role. I know she is an extremely successful and talented singer, but I wasn’t sure how she would approach a movie role. She ended up playing Florence Jackson, a stoic mother of four, with grace and poise, and I can’t wait to see what other projects she takes on. I also thought that the chemistry between Ronsel and Jaimie (played by Jason Mitchell and Garrett Hedlund) was perfect and really made the movie special. One person whose performance I was a little let down by was Carey Mulligan who played Laura McAllan. Mulligan is arguably the most seasoned actor on the cast list, however she gave a dull performance that was not nearly as memorable as her castmates.
Another noteworthy element of the movie was the writing. I particularly liked the inner monologues that the audience got to hear from time to time. Mudbound is adapted from a book after all so I thought it was nice to have that narrative element in the movie. It was also useful to hear what the characters were thinking because they couldn’t always say it.
Lastly, the film did an incredible job with addressing racism that occurred during the time period. Mudbound doesn't sugarcoat anything; it shows you how life truly was for Black Americans during World War II, and you’ll feel uncomfortable often throughout the movie. One scene in particular stood out to me in this way. There is a scene about halfway through the movie when Ronsel arrives home from the war and uses the front door of a convenience store to buy some things for his family instead of the back door. In Europe it was acceptable for whites and blacks to use the same door, but in Mississippi black people had to use the back door. As Ronsel is leaving, he bumps into Pappy. Pappy is the slightly senile father of Mr. Mcallan and is known for his extremely racist comments. Pappy gives him a hard time for using the front door, saying “I don’t know what they let you do over there, but you’re in Mississippi now [N word], you use the back door.” Ronsel responds, “We didn’t go in the back over there. General Patton put us right up on the front lines. Yessuh, he took us when nobody else thought we were worth a damn. And you know what we did? We kicked the hell outta Hitler and them Jerries. All while every one of you was back here safe and sound at home. No need to thank me.” Even though Ronsel fought alongside white Americans and risked his life for his country, he still gets treated like a second class citizen. This happened to many black veterans during Jim Crow.
The only complaints I have about Mudbound is its awkward pace that I mentioned earlier and a few of the storylines in the film. For example, The bizarre secret romance storyline between Ms. Mcallen and Jaimie was a big waste of time and never amounted to anything as Jaimie ends up leaving the farm and moving back to the city as is seen at the end of the film. It didn’t contribute to the plot in any way other than being a distraction. I won’t be watching this movie again, or at least anytime soon just because of the dark subject matter. However, because of its ability to address the harsh realities of racism and the way those harsh realities were executed it will definitely stick with me for a long time, and for that I will give it an 9/10.