We are shaken still, from watching Mudbound last night. This incredible movie is must see, a lightning bolt with a message that America’s history of racism still requires a reckoning. It reminds of Amistad, Twelve Years a Slave, Django Unchained, and American History X.
It is impeccably well acted. All performances are stand out. You never pause to think about the acting. You just immerse, which makes it’s pain acute, like a knife lingering in front of you, lightly pressing against your skin, and slowly turning up the pressure before it goes in, and starts to turn.
Mary J. Blige, Rob Morgan, Jason Mitchell, and Garrett Hedlund are to be thanked. So is the director and writer Dee Rees, with her co-writer Virgil Williams. A torrent of African-American and female directors has been unleashed, it seems, in this year of Wonder Woman and Girls Trip and more, and cinema I think shall not look back. The original novel was written by Hillary Jordan, and both this book and When She Woke are now on the list.
The movie is well summed up by a quoted verse from Job 14 in the Bible. It comes near the end, and it haunts me still.
Man who is born of a woman
is of few days and full of trouble.
He cometh forth like a flower
and is cut down.
He fleeth as a shadow and continueth not.
And doth thou open thine eyes
upon such a one,
and bringest me into judgment with thee?
Who can bring a clean thing
out of an unclean? Not one.
For there is hope of a tree,
if it be cut down,
that it will sprout again.
But man dieth and wasteth away.
As the waters fell from the sea
and drieth up,
so man lieth down and riseth not.
’Til the heavens be no more,
they shall not awake,
nor be raised out of their sleep.
I read it to myself again and again today, in a whisper, trying to cleanse the stain I felt as an American in watching this film, and being grateful that such a film now exists — to help us with the washing, to see if we can bring a clean thing out of an unclean thing, and to remind us all that it hath not been done yet.