Director Dee Rees (sharing script credit with Virgil Williams) brings Hillary Jordan's book to life with an ease that often eludes such page-to-screen transfers.
The result is a story filled with longing and pain, but which also finds unlikely bonds as it contemplates the grim racial history of the Jim Crow South and the war's aftermath.
The move, however, doesn't go as planned, bringing the struggling McAllans into close contact with the Jacksons, Hap (Rob Morgan) and Florence (Mary J. Blige), African-American sharecroppers whose sprawling brood survives by working the land.
"Mudbound" bores in on various levels of division involving class and race, even as its characters wage what amounts to an ongoing battle against elements that give meaning to the title and drape this world in gray, muted tones.
The ensemble cast is uniformly good -- Hedlund's emotionally wounded warrior, who finally finds something about which to care, deserves special mention -- in a movie so delicately woven as to unearth reservoirs of compassion for even less-sympathetic characters, exploring darkness without abandoning hope.
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