Mudbound, a 2017 period drama — released on Netflix and also playing in select theaters around the United States — takes a look into the consistency of racism and mental disorders in the mid-1900s. Based on the novel of the same name by Hillary Jordan, the film focuses on two World War II veterans – one white, one black – who arrive back to rural Mississippi to face difficulties such as racial discrimination and PTSD.
Dee Rees, a director and writer who is known for the films Pariah and Bessie, drilled a stunning cast to illustrate just what tended to happen in the overtly-racist lands of the south. In the film, we see many black families working as sharecroppers, where Hap Jackson — husband and father of four (portrayed by Rob Morgan) — makes the statement, “[Black families] worked this land all they lives; a land that never would be theirs,” making note of how difficult it was to have and take care of property that ultimately belonged to someone else.
The drama highlights a regular occurrence that the film The Help showcases — Black women leaving their own children to go take care of white children. Florence (portrayed by Mary J. Blige) had initially vowed to “give all herself” to her children, as her own mother was unable to due to her working as a caretaker for a white family. Alas, when the daughters of Laura (portrayed by Carey Mulligan) and Henry (portrayed by Jason Clarke) — a white couple — fall sick with whooping cough, she is asked for her assistance to heal them and ends up leaving her family for a few days to help.
Hap and Florence’s son, Ronsel, left their Mississippi home to fight in World War II and returns to the state only to be ridiculed and discriminated against, as if he had not just fought to protect all American lives overseas. He is angrily reprimanded for not using the back door of a store; racist whites felt he was too emboldened and became infuriated when Ronsel retaliated with a slick, but very truthful, comment. This incident led to his attack by the KKK.
Jamie, the brother of Henry, also returned to the states after World War II and went to live with Henry and Laura. He was a bright individual throughout most of the movie, creating hilarity out of situations that do not usually call for it, but notably suffered from PTSD, which ultimately led to his alcoholism. Through it however, he attempted to remain a righteous individual, sticking up for and later befriending Ronsel.
Mudbound is an evenly-paced movie that shows the differences (and similarities) between whites and blacks where the remnants of slavery are still as deeply ingrained in society as tree roots and that causalities of war often meant much more than physical deaths.