Cast: Jason Mitchell, Carey Mulligan, Garrett Hedlund, Mary J. Blige
Director: Dee Rees (Pariah)
Why it's great: The South's post-slavery existence is, for Hollywood, mostly uncharted territory. Rees rectifies the overlooked stretch of history with this novelistic drama about two Mississippi families working a rain-drenched farm in 1941. The white McAllans settle on a muddy patch of land to realize their dreams. The Jacksons, a family of black sharecroppers working the land, have their own hopes, which their neighbors manage to nurture and curtail. To capture a multitude of perspectives, Mudbound weaves together specific scenes of daily life, vivid and memory-like, with family member reflections, recorded in whispered voice-over. The epic patchwork stretches from the Jackson family dinner table, where the youngest daughter dreams of becoming a stenographer, to the vistas of Mississippi, where incoming storms threaten an essential batch of crops, to the battlefields of World War II Germany, a harrowing scene that will affect both families. Confronting race, class, war, and the possibility of unity, Mudbound is an urgent observation for a divided country and a spellbinding drama. It's no surprise that, after a standing ovation at the premiere, antsy fest-goers saw the movie's awards prospects. Yes, already.
Where you'll see it: In theaters this year