New to Netflix is Mudbound, an incendiary WWII epic about two Deep South families tied to land, love and racial disharmony. Spanning the entirity of the war, Mudbound’s families – the white McAllans and the black Jacksons – share experiences of conflict, trauma and love under the shadow of racist violence and oppression.
At the centre of the McAllan clan is Laura (Carey Mulligan), whose marriage to her farm-owning husband (Jason Clarke) is tested by her secret relationship with his brother Jamie (Garrett Hedlund), who returns disturbed from WWII. The Jacksons, who work the McAllans land in near-slavery and are tasked with solving the McAllan’s every problem, endure life in the repressive South the best they can. Eldest son Ronsel (Jason Mitchell) returns to his family after Allied victory, and finds himself unwelcome in American society.
The first 40-odd minutes of delicate family drama set up the emotional fallout from the soldiers’ homecoming, despite a sluggish start. That said, Mudbound is an engrossing, powerful piece of work which absorbs you into a world of inequality, but also one of humanity. The stand out relationship is that of the two veterans, Ronsel and Jamie, who come together united by forbidden love, giving us a hopeful oasis amongst the misery.
The end of Mudbound is devastating. This subtle, well-paced drama that leads into its shattering climax, which you’re depressingly prepared for but horrified regardless. But, most importantly, Mudbound appropriately handles the presentation of the uncomfortable reality African-American soldiers faced when they came home from the frontline. Handling the subject matter with a nuanced presentation of life in a deeply segregated society, Mudbound is a powerful and, at times, appropriately optimistic portrayal of problems of 1940s America, which also shows the resistance love can exert in the most dire times.