Rated R, 134 minutes
The compelling, superbly-acted period drama "Mudbound" is a familiar, yet powerful look at the 1940's post-war Deep South. An adaptation of Hillary Jordan's 2008 novel of the same, it's an affecting, powerful exploration family, love, friendship and race.
Laura McAllan (Carey Mulligan) is trying to raise her children on her husband Henry's (Jason Clarke) Mississippi Delta farm, a place she finds foreign and frightening. In the midst of family struggles, two young men return from the war to work the land. Jamie McAllan (Garrett Hedlund), Laura's brother-in-law, is everything her husband is not: charming and handsome, but he is haunted by his memories of combat. Ronsel Jackson ("Straight Outta Compton's" Jason Mitchell), eldest son of the black sharecroppers (Mary J. Blige and Rob Morgan) who live on the McAllan farm, now battles the prejudice in the Jim Crow South.
The well-acted, thought-provoking "Mudbound," now streaming on Netflix, is directed by "Bessie's" Dee Rees and co-written by Rees and Virgil Williams. Twinged with tragedy and hardships, it treads similar ground such as previous dramas "Sounder" and "Places in the Heart," though it stands on its own nicely. It all works fine until the final act, when it takes a few too many twists and turns.
Dees solid direction and writing provides some excellent performances from its A-list cast, including Mulligan, Clarke, Hedlund, Mitchell, pop singer Blige and in a memorable turn as a despicably racist old man, "Breaking Bad's" Banks. It goes on a little too long and too sad and hopelessly at times, but then this time period was twinged with sadness for many in the area.
There are a handful of unforgettably powerful scenes - the final minutes are extremely difficult to watch - and some poignant ones: seeing Ronsel return home to his family following the war will touch your heart. The dour photography from "Fruitvale Station's" Rachel Morrison perfectly captures the dirtiness of the region, while the music from Tamar Kali-Brown, which includes some old Negro spirituals, adds some powerful context in some scenes.
The deeply satisfying, touching "Mudbound" is a pertinent portrait of the rights and wrongs in the Deep South, but that love can still transcend and continues through the ages. One of the better efforts from Netflix, it's also a must-see and a strong, worthy candidate for many future awards. Add this one to your list to see.