Mudbound, one of 2017’s highly acclaimed films recently released on Netflix, is an interwoven story of American history and life. Race, family and war are big themes being explored with such an expansive vision, and yet the stories that underlie them are so painfully personal and intimate. Dee Rees’ film is not just another ‘black’ or ‘slave’ film; It looks at the aftermath of war and conflict and the searing implications that continues to shape American society till this day. Mudbound is indeed a difficult watch because Dee Rees’ film is neither politicized nor driven by agenda. This is a film, that at its very core, is an honest depiction of American society and the ghosts that Americans aren’t willing to confront. With the release of suppressed racial hatred, made even more prevalent by a government who turns a blind eye, Mudbound is more timely and painful than ever in 2017.
Spotlighting the realities of post-war life in America, Dee Rees’ characters feel like they own a part of a collective history in their own way. Coming from different backgrounds, two familes (one white and one black) are at the center of this unfolding drama. Their day-to-day troubles and privileges or lack thereof show the fractures and disparity in American society. As with the male characters who struggle to build a home from a house, to the women who absorb the unending burden of family, Rees’ film reaches deep into the troubles of the everyman and woman. Halfway through the film, Mudbound’s warmth and sensitivity in dealing with the theme of PTSD offers a way of showing humanity in an otherwise bleak yet real depiction of American life. The whole cast was fantastic but I found Mary J Blige, Jason Mitchell and Garrett Hedlund the most outstanding. Mitchell and Hedlund’s tortured characters and their bond moved me the most while Mary J Blige completely left stardom at the door and transformed into the painfully realistic wife of the family. I felt all her pain and all her joy that she was feeling at every step of the way. With this stunning performance, Mary J Blige gave a true voice to all mothers out there. It was that good.
I liked how Mudbound frequently used internal monologue to give depth to its characters. It gave a mellow and brooding undertone which wasn’t excessive. Like the reflections of the characters in the aftermaths of their unfolding ordeals, it seemed very personal and foreshadowing. And in a way, Dee Rees’ approach was so effective. One troubling fact that has plagued American society, even till this day, is the inability and unwillingness to come to terms with its dark past. Mudbound’s searing and devastating internal monologue is like a haunting that continues to trouble its characters and serves as a reminder that it too, will forever haunt the citizens of this country. And rightly so. Mudbound’s themes of inequality, privilege, racial hatred and prejudice are still at the heart of America’s social fabric. Even in the rural setting of post-war America, you see the scenes unfold as if they could have happened in real time.
With a dedication to the unseen troubles and contributions of women and the sensitivity shown when dealing with veterans and PTSD, Mudbound is indeed the exact foil to the American Dream. America’s past has been tainted, bloodied and continues to stain. Despite the troubling tragedy that modern American society still finds itself mired in the problems of Mudbound’s 1946 America, Mudbound is a call to be better.