Mudbound (2017)


Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBB.5.  

USA, 2017.  , , , , , , .  Screenplay by , Dee Rees, based on the novel by .  Cinematography by .  Produced by , , , , , , .  Music by .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by .  Academy Awards 2017Dorian Awards 2017.  Golden Globe Awards 2017.  Gotham Awards 2017Independent Spirit Awards 2017. New York Film Critics 2017. North Carolina Film Critics Awards 2017Online Film Critics Awards 2017. Screen Actors Guild Awards 2017.  Toronto International Film Festival 2017Washington Film Critics Awards 2017.

A Memphis woman () verging on spinsterhood marries a solid if not particularly exciting man () and they have two children before he makes the rash decision to buy a farm in his home state of Mississippi and moves them there.  The farm they buy has a family of tenant farmers headed by and a remarkably effective , who are both hoping that the relative stability they have achieved will get them to a better place if they can just keep working their land.  This land, though, is the segregated south of the 1940s, and the customs of the society they live in is probably the only thing that drags them down more than the endless wet mud that makes their lives a hell to endure.  Clarke and Mulligan are poor and struggle to make for a decent existence, but the sharecroppers are always kept a step below by the era of “Jim Crow” laws, sowing the seeds for crisis when Clarke’s brother () and Morgan and Blige’s eldest son () return from serving in World War II and their friendship brings negative attention and, eventually, violence.  Elegant, languid direction and terrific performances are combined with an uncompromising vision of the ugliest realities of the world this film takes place in, providing the elements for  sweeping epic that saves its most devastating moments for its unforgettable conclusion.  The narrative could use some tightening, it’s hard to find the story’s centre and the Faulkner-esque narration is superfluous and sometimes confusing (which combined with perpetually dark cinematography can make for some genuine frustration), but the best moments hit deep satisfaction (I could watch Blige snatch letters out of people’s hands all day) and director Dee Rees puts as much emphasis on moments of connection and compassion as she does enmity and conflict for rich results.

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