The ambitious Mudbound gives a prestige literary epic the soul of a character study

Photo: Netflix Mudbound Drawn from the pages of Hillary Jordan’s 2008 international bestseller, Mudbound has the heft—the narrative and thematic meatiness, the thicket of characters and subplots and years-spanning incident—of a book you can’t put down. But if the film is novelistic in its sprawl, maybe sometimes to a fault, it’s written in poetry as well as prose. For Dee Rees, writer and director of the tender (if dramatically overfamiliar) Sundance sensation Pariah , this handsome literary adaptation is a big leap forward in scope and craft—a sophomore swing for the fences. But Rees’ singular sensibilities haven’t dimmed with the expansion of her ambitions. They still glow brightly, illuminating Jordan’s vision of hardship, simmering conflict, and racial inequity in 1940s Mississippi. Mudbound entwines the fates of two families—one white, one black—tethering their hopes and dreams to the same unforgiving stretch of land. Chasing a kind of 20th-century manifest destiny, the emotionally limited Henry McAllan (Jason Clarke) relocates his wife, Laura (Carey Mulligan); bigoted father, Pappy (Jonathan Banks); and two young children from their home in Memphis to a cotton farm in the Mississippi Delta. For years, the land has been worked by the sharecropping Jacksons, country preacher Hap (Rob […]

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