Mudbound’s depiction of 1940s racism is unflinching
Film | by Jorge Ignacio Castillo
Racism in America has been well-documented, but there’s a period in U.S. history that hasn’t received much attention. Following World War II, African-American soldiers came home to a severe culture backlash: in Europe they were treated as liberators, heroes or, at the very least, equals. But in America they remained second-class citizens, forced to sit at the back of the bus.
Mudbound portrays this phenomenon through the story of the two families sharing a patch of farmland in Mississippi. The McAllans are white city folk unprepared for the hardships of living on the land, while the Jacksons are prepared, but they consistently draw the short straw due to being black.
Both McAllans and Jacksons have a family member returning from the war. Jamie (Garrett Hedlund, Tron: Legacy) self-medicates by drinking large quantities of alcohol, while Ronsel (Jason Mitchell, Straight Outta Compton) can’t get over the woman he left behind in Germany. The two vets become fast friends, but the relationship doesn’t sit well with the locals.
Director Dee Rees, responsible for the little seen, superb Pariah, creates a rich tapestry of personalities in flux. Just as significant as the core story is the one anchored by Jamie’s sister-in-law, Laura (Carey Mulligan). An intellectual, sensible woman, Laura is swept off her feet by a brawny, quiet man (Jason Clarke) who drags her into a life of hardships and oh-so-much dirt.
Mudbound is ambitious and, for the most part, delivers (Jonathan Banks is typecast as the villain, but he’s so damn good at it). Any movie capable of triggering an emotional reaction is worth a look, and the last 30 minutes of this one had me seething.