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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Mudbound is an intense, heartfelt drama with mature themes and scenes of brutality, alcoholism, and racial upheaval. Based on the acclaimed 2008 novel by Hillary Jordan, it's an ensemble piece that's narrated by six different characters, each one integral to the plot. Striking visuals, along with powerful performances, add impact to scenes with disturbing content. It's set in the 1940s in Mississippi, and racial tension is high -- the "N" word is frequently spoken. Other profanity includes "s--t," "hell," and "c--t," along with some disparaging sexual references ("plenty of tail," "sniffing up after me"). Wartime action includes planes and tanks under fire with explosions and bloody deaths. Spoiler alert: Racial violence results in the savage beating and mutilation of a beloved character. There are brief moments of nudity, including full-frontal. One passionate sexual encounter is initiated. Alcohol is consumed, frequently to excess, and one character becomes an alcoholic over the course of the film. Smoking is part of the 1940s culture. This is an outstanding movie that should invite in-depth conversation about subjects that are as relevant today as they were decades ago.
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What's the story?
Two Mississippi families, one white, one black, live through and after World War II, facing poverty and racism in MUDBOUND. The McAllans, headed by Henry (Jason Clarke), and the Jacksons, headed by Hap (Rob Morgan), are neighbors, each with a returning veteran in their midst, but they are not friends. Still, they find themselves dependent upon one another as they face the cruel challenges of the times. The Jacksons are tenant farmers on the McAllan land, which is pummeled by storms and constant flooding, in a town that still harbors profound segregation and prejudice. After a scary siege of illness, the two women -- Laura McAllan (Carey Mulligan) and Florence Jackson (Mary J. Blige) -- quickly realize how desperately they need each other. The two young vets, Jamie McAllan (Garrett Hedlund) and Ronsel Jackson (Jason Mitchell), are forced to hide an important friendship, finding solace with each other as they navigate their return to Mississippi after eye-opening and profound experiences overseas. Tensions between the families, heightened by the presence of the relentlessly racist McAllan grandfather (Jonathan Banks) and Jamie's increasing PTSD, lead to a climax that allows the deep-seated hatred of generations to threaten any hope of true community and racial tranquility.
Is it any good?
Expansive, relevant themes are intimately explored with superb performances and restrained direction in this stirring period drama. Staying with author Hillary Jordan's multiple narrators in Mudbound, director/co-writer Dee Rees, young, passionate, and very talented, has found an ideal vehicle for this story. The movie focuses on race, class, gender, and the human costs paid for divisiveness. Production is outstanding, with special kudos for cinematography, music, and art direction. With the exception of an irredeemable racist grandfather, the central characters are richly complex. While there are elements that may be familiar to audiences, they are never predictable. And given the awful, heartbreaking events that transpire, the film even offers hope. A highly recommended movie, especially for families with mature teens. It illuminates a difficult historical moment and gives context to an ongoing American racial divide.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the racial issues depicted in Mudbound. Do you think there's still blatant discrimination? What do you see as a possible remedy? How can today's kids help effect change?
Do you think the disturbing violence helps audiences more fully comprehend the African-American experience? Why or why not?
If you have seen other films about racism and racists, how does this movie differ? Other than time, what, if anything, separates the attitudes of the 1940s from earlier American history?
In movie or theatrical terms, what is an "ensemble piece"? How does it differ from other movies? What are some of your favorite ensemble films?
- On DVD or streaming: November 17, 2017
- Cast: Carey Mulligan, Garrett Hedlund, Jason Mitchell, Mary J. Blige
- Director: Dee Rees
- Studio: Netflix
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Friendship, History, Misfits and Underdogs
- Character Strengths: Courage, Perseverance
- Run time: 134 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: some disturbing violence, brief language, and nudity
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