To Sleep with Anger

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To Sleep with Anger
To Sleep with Anger FilmPoster.jpeg
Film poster
Directed by Charles Burnett
Produced by Thomas S. Byrnes
Caldecot Chubb
Darin Scott
Edward R. Pressman
Written by Charles Burnett
Music by Stephen James Taylor
Cinematography Walt Lloyd
Edited by Nancy Richardson
Distributed by The Samuel Goldwyn Company
Release date
  • October 12, 1990 (1990-10-12)
Running time
102 minutes
Country United States
Language English

To Sleep with Anger is a 1990 American drama film directed and written by Charles Burnett.

In 2017, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".[1]


Harry (Danny Glover), an enigmatic old friend from the South, comes to visit Gideon (Paul Butler) and his wife Suzie (Mary Alice), who haven't seen him for many years, who are delighted to see him again, and who insist that he stay with them for as long as he would like. Gideon and Suzie live in South Central Los Angeles, though they retain some of their rural southern ways, including raising chickens in the backyard. Harry has a charming, down-home manner, but his presence brings to a crisis the simmering trouble that is already in the family—especially as regards the younger son, Samuel or "Baby Brother" (Richard Brooks), and his relation to his parents, wife, and older brother, Junior (Carl Lumbly). His disruptive presence is dangerous (his influence threatens to break up Samuel's marriage and seems to be related to the illness that puts Gideon in bed in serious condition for a couple weeks), but ultimately purgative: Gideon's extended family is much more cohesive as a result of Harry's visit. Samuel and Junior struggle over a knife in a climactic fight during a storm, which ends in Suzie sustaining a knife wound. During a long wait in the emergency room, the storm clears, and, similarly, the simmering anger that Harry seemed to bring to a boil is also dissipated. Harry's death just before the end of the film suggests, ambiguously, that he has been to a degree a self-sacrificing savior of the family.



The film won four Independent Spirit Awards, including Best Director and Best Screenplay for Charles Burnett, Best Male Lead for Danny Glover, and Best Supporting Female for Sheryl Lee Ralph.

Burnett also won the National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Screenplay and the Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival.


Roger Ebert called it "too long" in a negative review (2.5/4).[2] Christopher Null called it "insanely over-rated" and gave it 2/5 stars ("weak").[3] Entertainment Weekly's Owen Glieberman called it "too ambitious" and said it "never finds a mood" [4]

External links[edit]