In celebration of Black History Month, we’re making daily movie recommendations, presented in chronological order of the films’ stories.
Stay tuned to Noovie every day as we highlight an original, landmark film worth revisiting or discovering for the first time.
February 5 – Mudbound (1946)
Director and co-writer Dee Rees’ 2017 drama is based on the novel by Hillary Jordan. It’s set in the Mississippi Delta during the World War II era, and traces the intertwined lives of a white and black family, whose experience of poverty, war and racism has a devastating impact. Mary J. Blige, nominated for Academy Awards for her performance and original song for the film, co-stars alongside Jason Mitchell, Carey Mulligan and Garrett Hedlund.
After a successful debut at the Sundance Film Festival, the film was the subject of an intense bidding war. While indie stalwarts Annapurna Pictures and A24 both attempted to acquire distribution rights, ultimately Netflix landed the film, releasing the movie on its platform on November 17, 2017, and in limited release in theaters at the same time. Watch the Trailer and keep reading on for our take.
Taking place in poverty-stricken Mississippi in the years before, during and after World War II, the story tracks two poor families. The McAllans are white farmers who employ the Jacksons, black sharecroppers who work their land. While Henry McAllan (Jason Clarke) is clearly a racist who has little respect for the black community, it’s his dad Pappy (Jonathan Banks) and Pappy’s Klu Klux Klansman peers who represent the true evil in the region.
Henry’s long-suffering wife Laura (Mulligan), and Florence (Blige) and her husband Hap Jackson (Rob Morgan), are the individuals caught in the middle of this unforgiving environment.
But trapped in the ultimate crossfire are the Jacksons' son, Ronsel (Mitchell), and Henry McAllan’s younger brother, Jamie (Hedlund). Both are sent off to fight in the war, and both return deeply troubled young men. Bonded by their war experiences, they find their growing friendship is not only frowned upon by the community, but that it will have dire consequences.
There’s a lot of genuine despair in the story told here, which is only heightened by Rachel Morrison’s stark cinematography. But there’s also grace to be found in the performances, the filmmaking and the movie's final notes. While "Mudbound" presents racism and poverty in its ugliest forms during an earlier time, there are many parallels to today’s world.
Mary J. Blige is distinguished in Oscar history for being the only individual nominated for acting (Best Supporting Actress) and song (Best Original Song) in the same year. Also, “Mudbound’s” Rachel Morrison is the first woman ever to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Cinematography.
“Mudbound” really is a tough watch, but it's a powerful one, and all of its production levels are superlative. As a part of history, and something relevant to our current times, it’s must-see viewing.
Where to Watch
See “Mudbound” now on Netflix
Drama / 2017 / R
Laura McAllan is trying to raise her children on her husband's Mississippi Delta farm, a place she finds foreign and frightening. In the midst of the family's struggles, two young men return from the war to work the land. Jamie McAllan, Laura's brother-in-law, is everything her husband is not - charming and handsome, but he is haunted by his memories of combat. Ronsel Jackson, eldest son of the black sharecroppers who live on the McAllan farm, now battles the prejudice in the Jim Crow South.