To Sleep with Anger (1990)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Family Drama  |   Release Date - Oct 12, 1990 (USA)  |   Run Time - 95 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - PG
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Review by Lucia Bozzola

The first "commercial" effort by resolutely independent African-American filmmaker Charles Burnett, To Sleep With Anger (1990) continued Burnett's efforts to move beyond black movie stereotypes. A low-key domestic drama involving a comfortably middle-class California family, Burnett's story about a disturbing visit from Danny Glover's quietly malign family friend Harry presents a subtle portrait of intergenerational dynamics that sets the film apart from the incipient early-'90s wave of "New Jack Cinema." Opening old wounds, evoking the power of the Old South heritage, and sparking long-simmering sibling rivalries, Harry's supernatural-tinged sojourn proves to be a lesson in the ongoing uncertainty of life and status. Despite the support and presence of star Glover, coming off the peak of his Lethal Weapon fame, To Sleep With Anger failed to attract audiences, sparking questions about the distributor's desultory efforts in marketing an African-American film that wasn't about youth and violence. Still, To Sleep With Anger remains a key film in the '90s African-American filmmaking renaissance, attesting -- like the work of Spike Lee -- to the range and depth of black experience waiting to be committed to celluloid.