Experiencing other people’s lives and seeing what they go through is essential to growing as a person and having empathy. Watching movies is one way to do this. Film is a reflection of our society, whether you are watching a documentary about the The White Helmets or watching a film based on historical events. So when I told my husband I wanted to watch Mudbound on Netflix and he agreed, I was thrilled. I had only read good things across the board. But I was not prepared for the feelings of devastation and conflict I had by the time the end credits rolled. It has been two weeks since the viewing and I am still torn up.
Mudbound is directed by Dee Rees and stars Jason Clarke, Carey Mulligan, Garrett Hedlund, and Jason Mitchell. It tells the story of two families in the early forties in Mississippi. The McAllans, Laura and Henry, are forced to take up residency in a home not of their choosing after being swindled out of their dream home. Henry’s father Pappy (Jonathan Banks) lives with them. The Jacksons are Hap (Rob Morgan) and Florence (Mary J. Blige) and their children. The Jacksons work for the McAllans. The relationship between the two families is amiable at best, with Pappy always showing them who is boss with his racist remarks and orders. Henry is a weak man who doesn’t stand up to his father and appears to be following in his footsteps.
Henry’s brother Jamie (Garrett Hedlund) returns from WWII a drunk with PTSD. The Jacksons’ son Ronsel (Jason Mitchell) also returns a soldier of war but has gained confidence and strength after being regarded as a hero overseas. When the two men meet and form a friendship, it presents trouble in the obvious ways you would think in the south in the forties.
From the first disgusting and awful word that Pappy uses to address the Jacksons, I hated him like I have never hated a character before. As the story progresses I could feel myself dreading what was going to happen next.
I suspect it will be a long time before I can think about Mudbound and not want to cry. Just like with Ta-Nahesi Coates’ Between the World and Me and The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas, Mudbound opened my eyes that much more to an awful reality that is part of American history. I feel anger, sadness, hopelessness, and shame. A film that can have such a dramatic effect on its audience should be shown in history classes, not just theaters or Netflix.