Indulge Magazine Online – Free State of Jones Review

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A thrilling story, a harsh reality and devastating history. Free State of Jones is the 1860s Southern American drama that will challenge what you think and leave you wanting to know more.


It tells the story of Newton Knight, played by Matthew McConaughey. Knight is a husband and father enlisted to fight in the American Civil War. After a loved one dies in the warfare, Knight decides to desert the army and ends up hiding out with escaped African-American slaves, led by Moses Washington, in the swamps of Jones County.

Slowly Knight encourage other deserters to join him, and together with Washington and the escaped slaves, they build up a rebellion party against the confederate army. The institution that’s forcing all men and boys to fight the war and stealing the food and goods of the remaining families.

His wife Serena (played by Keri Russel) leaves him and their home with their young son as the confederate begins to burn the homes of deserters.


Amongst those hiding in the swamps is Rachel, a young African-American woman, played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw. Knight and Rachel fall in love and defy the law of interracial partnerships. Meanwhile the racism of the time is immense, after a bill passes stating slavery as illegal, many masters find loopholes to reinstate their dominance over those African American’s who they consider to be their ‘property’. With the Ku Klux Klan gaining dominance and the African-American people being denied basic human rights and tortured beyond belief. The climate for racial progress that Knight, Washington and their ‘The Free State of Jones’ instigated, is quickly diminished.


Throughout the film there are flashes forward to Rachel and Knight’s grandson, who as one-eighth African-American in the 1940s is jailed for marrying a Caucasian woman. These dynamics of continued racism 85 years after Knight and Washington fought for freedom, showcases the horrifying lack of progress. Free State of Jones is bound to leave you thinking, exploring a modern history that isn’t often discussed.


With all of the gory realities of the war and racism of the late 19th Century in America, make sure you have a stomach of steel before getting settled for this over two-hour long drama.


The cinematography explores the varying landscapes of the South, from swamps to townships and battlefields to slave-kept mansions. The exquisite scenery is contrasted wholly by the devastating content.

Such an immense history was upheld by the talent of the actors. McConaughey, often known for his romantic comedy roles, took the very serious role of Newton Knight and made it his own. His strength within the character gave the film a clear timeline and supported the believability of such a shocking historical story.

Overall, the film needs to be seen to be believed. If you’re looking for a historical drama that educates as well as entertains and can stomach the gore of the life and times of war and slavery, then Free State of Jones is the film for you.

Words by Meg Gillespie
Image via Free State of Jones Facebook Page


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