LA Weekly film critic April Wolfe is reporting for us from the Toronto International Film Festival.
Writer-director Dee Rees is breaking all the rules with her third feature, Mudbound. In film school, they tell you, “No voiceovers,” yet this film about two WWII and post-war Mississippi families — one black, one white — is filthy with them. They tell you, “Play it safe until you’re more experienced,” yet Mudbound is a sprawling epic. They say, “Never make a period piece because the budget will be prohibitive,” yet the setting here spans multiple years and continents in the 1940s. With Mudbound, Rees proves the truest rule of all: That talent and vision make all lesser rules negotiable. This absorbing, incredibly accomplished film should win awards and be taught in history classes all over America.
The film opens at the end of this story, with Laura McAllan (Carrie Mulligan) describing what her existence once was like on the Mississippi farm with her husband Henry (Jason Clarke). She leads her two daughters through a brown and barren expanse of land to the makeshift grave Henry and his brother Jamie (Garrett Hedlund) have dug for their father, Pappy (Jonathan Banks). “When I think of the farm,” she says, “I think of mud. … I dreamed in brown.” The story of Mudbound is adapted from Hillary Jordan’s book of the same name, and Rees and her co-writer Virgil Williams adeptly use Jordan’s poetic prose in voiceover, with multiple characters getting their turn to control the story, letting us see the world through their eyes and aches and pains.
After visiting the grave, we go back to the beginning of this story, before the McAllans have even…
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