Director: Dee Rees
Nominated for: Best Supporting Actress; Best Original Song; Best Adapted Screenplay; Best Cinematography
The way we watch films is changing with cinemas no longer being the only place to see a movie – in fact we’re inundated not only with new ways to watch but also new companies entering the movie-making field what with Amazon and Netflix not only streaming but creating their own content. And nowhere is that more evident than the fact that Mudbound is a Netflix original film that has been nominated for the Oscars. Not only is it the first feature film I can think of that has been nominated for an Oscar made that has been made by someone other than a big Hollywood movie studio but it’s also responsible for garnering the first nomination for a female in the cinematography category.
Mudbound was an interesting viewing experience as the material is quite difficult. It raises some stark questions especially given the somewhat turbulent times we’re currently living in. I did find the friendship that develops between Jamie McAllen (Garrett Hedlund) and Ronsel Jackson (Jason Mitchell) an intriguing one that completely overlooks the differences between the two men. They’re brought together by shared experiences that no-one else in their little Southern town could possibly imagine, having fought in World War II. It’s kind of refreshing to see. They’re both slightly damaged by those experiences and yet realise that the world is so much bigger than their old hometown and their stupid prejudices.
Not only was Mary J Blige making history by being the first person nominated in both the Best Supporting Actress and Best Original Song categories in the same year but this was also the film that garnered the first nomination for a female cinematographer, Rachel Morrison. It think it’s great that the women in the more technical aspects of filmmaking are finally being recognised for the work they do. However for me there were some moments in Mudbound that were pretty dark in terms of the way they were lit and because I was watching it during the day (with no curtains) this meant that there were some key moments of the film that I missed as I just couldn’t see them.
Mary J Blige was almost unrecognisable as Florance Jackson – for me she looks like similar to a young Whoopi Goldberg. There’s a quite power and strength to her character which comes from her situation. Carey Mulligan is as usual exceptional as Laura McAllen – torn between two very different brothers and the lifestyle that she was promised and the one she ended up with. Jason Clarke does well as the rather ineffectual Henry McAllen – few opinions of his own, aspirations that remain unmet resulting in a frustration with his life and remains forever in the shadow of his overbearing father, Papa, played by Jonathan Banks. Papa is despicable! He’s the worst sort of person in this time period and makes for rather uncomfortable watching.
The whole film is kind of difficult to watch due to the themes touched on, such as the rampant racism that was still rife during the 1940s, but nothing is as harrowing as the scenes involving the vile Ku Klux Klan. There is something so despicable about that cult that you cannot help but be revolted by the very sight of them. The treatment of Ronsel is horrendous and I confess I did watch through my fingers while simultaneously crying my eyes out. And Papa is the driving force behind those scenes which just adds to the intense dislike I felt for his character.
Surprisingly there was a happy ending of sorts to Mudbound which I wasn’t really expecting. It’s kind of a strange film to sum up because I can’t really say I enjoyed it … it’s not that sort of film. But I did come away from it thinking about just how far we have come as a species and then equally how far we still have to go in order to live in a world where everyone is treated equally regardless of things like race, sexuality, gender and so on. Mudbound was definitely a film that make me think and was shot beautifully so for that reason I would recommend it. Just be prepared to be disgusted with some aspects of humanity.