To Sleep With Anger

Movie Review by Alice Castle

Starring: Danny Glover, Paul Butler, DeVaughn Nixon, Mary Alice, Reina King, Cory Curtis

Director: Charles Burnett

Slow moving, but interesting drama about an African-American family living in central Los Angeles. Charles Burnett’s 1990 film was voted one of Rolling Stone magazine’s top ten films of that year, though the movie passed an awful lot of people by, probably because it doesn’t really fit into any particular genre. The British Film Institute has re-released it this month and hopes to bring the film to a fresh audience.

Harry, (Danny Glover) arrives unannounced at old friends Gideon and Mary Alice. The couple like many African-Americans moved away from the deep-south and settled out west to bring up their family. They’ve done pretty well for themselves and brought up two reasonably happy boys in a nice house. Harry, a blast from the past, unsophisticated in his old ways and laden with superstitious tales of tending chickens and drinking moonshine appears to be somewhat envious of their urban set-up. As the tradition of hospitality commands, the LA family give their guest a warm welcome despite the havoc he causes in their domestic status quo.

TO SLEEP WITH ANGER examines some of the issues surrounding those who left the south behind – and how the past was conveyed to their children. Irritated by the presentation of African-Americans in film Charles Burnett defies cinematic convention and shows us the lives of a normal lower middle class family without all the old stereotypes.

3 out of 6 stars

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