Hope in a hopeless place. Hate in a hateful place. And through it all, there is mud.

Mudbound is Netflix’s first original to get this much recognition from The Academy, and it is all well deserved.  This movie is hard to watch solely because it forces us to look at the sins of America’s past.  But it does it in the context of a brilliant story with solid acting and stunning cinematography.

A Tale of Two Families

The story follows two families, the McAllans who buy a farm in rural Mississippi during World War II, and the Jacksons who are black sharecroppers working the McAllan’s land.  The families lead parallel yet completely different lives. The McAllen’s sank all their money into the land, while the Jacksons save all their cast to escape the farm. And it’s the land, the mud, that is omnipresent.  And the Mississippi downpours never wash it away, they only create more. Mud on the home. Mud on the clothes. Mud on the body. Mud on the soul.

In any film set in the south in the 40s, Racism will be an ugly character. Indeed it dictates every move made and every word uttered. But the bright spots in all this are the matriarchs of our families.  Carrie Mulligan as Laura McAllan and Mary J. Blige as Florence Jackson.  Both women are living lives they didn’t sign up for. Laura as a city girl placed on a dirt farm and Florence as a black woman in the south. Events conspire to bring them together. Their humanity shines through and gives us the hope we crave in this hopeless place.

Each family sends a member to war. When they return they realize they’ve changed but their home hasn’t.  They begin an eyebrow-raising friendship that will bring more pain than either can imagine. Or maybe they can imagine but become friends anyway.

Going For The Gold

Mudbound has four Oscar nominations, each well deserved. The most groundbreaking is Rachel Morrison’s nod for achievement in Cinematography.  She is the first woman to ever be nominated in this category.   Once you see the way she uses the entire palate of despair the Mississippi delta provides to show the dirt covered existence of these families you’ll realize she could carry home a statue.

Mary J. Blige is also nominated for Best Supporting Actress and Original Song.  While her performance is strong she is underused. Mary J. could have soared in this film but had to simply fly high behind sunglasses that hide her tortured, defeated emotions from the world. But as we’ve written in this space before, look for her to bring home the Oscar for her music.

Mudbound is also up for Adapted Screenplay.  It is an honor just to be nominated.

The Critic’s Cocktail Recommendation

A swig of whiskey straight out of the bottle. For medicinal purposes only. cough cough

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