It’s a sprawling historical drama. Here’s what I take from the script.
The Opening: The burial sets up multiple mysteries. Why the burial? Why Jamie and Henry doing the digging? Why Jamie with a black eye and cut lip? Why does Jamie fear being left in a hole? And this: Mud.
Old World / New World: Henry informing Laura he’s bought a farm and they are relocating, all without her knowledge.
Act One end: Henry and Laura family move into the farm house. And then a shift to WWII in Europe: Ronsel and Jamie.
Deconstruction Test: Florence helps with Henry and Laura’s sick children. Laura offers Florence a job. Pappy objects. [This represents an assault on the racist norms.]
Transition: After a sequence focusing on Hap’s broken leg, the story shifts to Ronsel in Europe with his German girlfriend. The war is ending. He is coming home.
Reconstruction Test: The story’s narrative point of view shifts to Jamie who returns from the war with PTSD and he bonds with Ronsel.
All Is Lost: This is quite interesting. Because the narrative point of view shifts so frequently, my experience of the big reversal in the story actually plays out as an ‘up’ moment: Henry tells Jamie to leave, but he ends up sleeping with Laura. As soon as they got horizontal, I knew things were going to go south… which is a kind of pun intended.
Act Three starts off with another ‘up’ moment: Ronsel discovers he is a father. He and Jamie bond over booze. And then, the shit hits the fan.
Final Struggle: Pappy and the KKK have Ronsel in custody. Jamie there as well. Balls or tongue.
Then Pappy dead (via Jamie). And we catch up to the Opening (once Henry returns).
Denouement: Jamie in L.A., Henry and Laura on the farm, Ronsel in Germany.
As deftly as the script shifts from one character’s POV to another, it highlights the challenges of a story told from multiple points of view. It forces the viewer to shift from one character perspective to another, and that can create emotional distance from the narrative.
And yet in Mudbound, I think it works because there is the bifurcation of a racist society: White and Black. How else would you tell this story? If from just one POV or the other, it could not convey the ‘muddy’ nature of racial politics.