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With: Carey Mulligan, Garrett Hedlund, Jason Clarke, Jonathan Banks, Kerry Cahill, Rob Morgan, Jason Mitchell, Mary J. Blige, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Geraldine Singer, Lucy Faust, David Jensen, Frankie Smith, Dylan Arnold, Henry Frost
Written by: Virgil Williams, Dee Rees, based on a novel by Hillary Jordan
Directed by: Dee Rees
MPAA Rating: R for some disturbing violence, brief language and nudity
Running Time: 134
Date: 11/17/2017

Mudbound (2017)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Open Farms

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Following up her remarkable debut Pariah (2011), director Dee Rees delivers this sweeping slice of Americana, epic, but also intimate. Based on a novel by Hillary Jordan, Mudbound takes place over several years during WWII and follows two farming families in Mississippi, one black and one white.

Henry McAllan (Jason Clarke) marries "old maid" Laura (Carey Mulligan) and brings her to the farm while Henry's brother Jamie (Garrett Hedlund) goes off to fight in the war. Henry's deeply racist "pappy" (Jonathan Banks) lives with them as well. Down the road live the Jacksons, who work their own land. Hep (Rob Morgan) is the proud, wise father and Florence (Mary J. Blige) is the midwife mother. Their eldest son, Ronsel (Jason Mitchell), likewise goes off to fight.

Most of the major characters occasionally narrate, Malick-style, murmuring private, lovely little moments of poetry, stolen moments of hopes, dreams, and fears. Mudbound is about the small things, such as Laura's children surviving whooping cough or Hap falling from the roof. After the war, Jamie and Ronsel become unlikely friends, much to the scowling irritation of the rest of the racist community.

Rees paces her 134-minute movie with patience and skill, and it never feels bloated or oversized, but neither does it ever feel too slow. She frames with loving care, emphasizing the title mud and wet, but also finding occasional moments of beauty among the sorrow. This is a very fine film, perhaps even a Gone with the Wind for the 21st century.

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