Down in the Delta

The Boston Phoenix

DIRECTED BY: Maya Angelou

REVIEWED: 12-27-98

Poet Maya Angelou makes her feature directorial debut with this uplifting but flawed saga about the preservation of family. The film stars a wildly expressive Alfre Woodard as Loretta, a young, jobless mother whose rock-bottom self-esteem marks her an easy target for the temptations of her poor Chicago 'hood. Her high-minded mama (Mary Alice), however, won't brook it, so she ships Loretta and her kin to Biloxi to spend a Mississippi summer with rumble-throated Uncle Earl (Al Freeman Jr.) and his Alzheimer's-stricken wife (Esther Rolle).

Loretta's awkward adjustment amid the willows and white clapboards is wholly predictable, yet first-time screenwriter Myron Goble plies an affecting twist or two, most notably the haunting lore behind a family heirloom, a candelabra named Nathan. Still, the film serves up many clunky moments, in part the result of Angelou's green camerawork (she previously directed plays and documentaries) and the story's earnest attempt to cram in too many issues -- addiction, guns, job reform, class frictions. Such leaden exposition doesn't sink the story, though; as in Angelou's verse, the themes of heritage and humanity resound.

--Alicia Potter

Full Length Reviews
Down in the Delta

Capsule Reviews
Down in the Delta

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