Down in the Delta (1998) Poster

User Reviews

Add a Review
20 ReviewsOrdered By: Helpfulness
Great movie despite low budget!
Pat-5425 January 1999
Despite the low budget, this is a very good movie. The performances are excellent and I recommend everyone to see it. I was in tears by the end of the film. My congratulations to everyone connected with this production.
9 out of 9 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
a touching poignant movie
queennbm19 March 2000
Although ignored at the box-office, this movie was beautiful. A must see by all black women. It was a movie that chronicled a woman's life that is similar to so many today. It shows how family is the foundation of happy lives. This movie was very moving for me. Not to mention the wonderful absence of profanity, sex and violence.
3 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Loved it, Loved it, Loved it
debfj26 September 1999
Maya Angelou is BRILLIANT!! This was an excellent family movie. The story was interesting. And, told in what I consider to be a typical Maya Angelou fashion -- extremely interesting and poetic -- with many underlying messages.

I love how the story led up to Nathan. How the symbolism of the candelabra strengthened the family. This showed how Nathan -- the candelabrum -- indirectly and unsuspectingly filled the role that Nathan -- the man -- was not allowed to do. It was almost as though Jesse -- Nathan's son -- knew instinctively that this candelabrum would play an important role in his family for generations to come.

The actors did an excellent job -- particularly Alfre Woodard and Al Freeman, Jr. I love that everyone was a star -- yet no one was a star!

I highly resented that you couldn't find Down in the Delta in the movies anywhere. When it comes to black films, it seems the film industry would rather show negative black images and nonsensical movies for black audiences. I was very disappointed at the lack of availability of this very positive movie. I've only been to one movie since; and have no immediate desire to attend any others. Although I have 2 free passes in my mirror -- sent to me by one of the major theatres to pacify me when I complained about the lack of availability of this movie -- I don't want free tickets (that's why they're still in my mirror). I want freedom of choice -- of being able to see positive images of black people. Chances are you couldn't find "Down in the Delta" in the movies. I've purchased the DVD. I intend to purchase several more -- as well as the VHS -- to give to family members as gifts. I highly recommend this film!!
5 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
positive and uplifting
luke-15926 December 2000
"Down in the Delta" is one of the better movies I have viewed. I find it difficult to believe it has not received more notice and distribution among the general population, but most certainly among African American audiences.

This movie brought home to me, as a white person, the destructiveness and family division inherent in slavery better than anything I have ever seen or read before. It showed a terrible dark part of slavery and the awful effect it had on families. The simple, yet very powerful, story of Nathan poignantly illustrated the loss of family and loved ones that was so much a part of slavery.

This is a movie about family that transcends race or color. All people can relate to the idea of how important family is from this movie.

I was able to view this movie with my wife and children and enjoy it without having to "cringe" because of sex, violence, or language. This shows that movies can be made that entertain and educate without being filled with gratuitous titillations.

Thank you for producing a wonderful movie that I will always remember. A movie about family and for family.
5 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Uplifting in the Delta
jawz432 January 1999
Al Freeman Jr. is one of the greatest actors of our time. This movie proved it.In fact everyone from this fine gentleman and little Kulani were all in fine form. I also enjoyed the fact that the young man in the story came from the inner city and his grandmother helped raise him so he was polite and caring. The role of Alfre found herself because of the love of her family not a man. The only problem with the movie was the presence of Nathan (sloppy symbolism) and the heavy-handed ending. And why was Anne-Marie Johnson so angry (very contrived). Maya needed some help in the editing room too! (Fades and black-outs were too long.) The movie had many messages about family that were dear to my heart.
3 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
A different kind of rehab.
George Parker25 March 2001
"Down in the Delta" is a sanitized, journeyman film about a black Chicago mother of two who is sent to visit family in the Mississippi delta region with the hope that family ties, values, and environment can help her rehabilitate herself. Although an obvious "feel good" fabrication, "Down..." has a sufficient depth and charm to make it a thoroughly enjoyable watch with some good lessons for all.
4 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
A dysfunctional family's return to family values.
TxMike7 September 1999
This movie begins in a Chicago ghetto, where Loretta is frankly doing a miserable job as a person and as a mother of two. As a last resort they drop in on her uncle in Mississippi for the summer, and his restaurant called "Just Chicken". From that point the real journey begins, accompanied by a few false starts, but accomplishing a wonderful transformation of not only Loretta's immediate family, but also the others they touch. It *is* a feel-good movie, but one that works well without becoming overly sappy. It's a good story, well-acted and well-directed, and will be enjoyed by anyone who shares traditional family values.
2 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Fine Acting and Story
claude-182 April 1999
A warm and life affirming story. Alfre Woodard gives another memorable, emotionally compelling performance in a story that engages from frame one. Al Freeman's fabulously inspired and understated performance as Uncle Earl is a lesson in how to fully inhabit a character without chewing the scenery. His is a most convincing and moving performance that should not be missed.

Mary Alice has become one of the great African American screen matriarchs now, possessing a vulnerable serenity in this role which underscores our hopes for the rebirth of the urban progeny at the core of this film.

Maya Angelou got up to directorial speed fairly quickly in this debut although some blocking and editing from early in the project (in opening scenes especially) are rough. She doesn't show a professional sense of timing in many of her edits and scene endings, but the heart she brings to her material more than compensates. And there are instances of excellent intercharacter cutting in scenes where it counts. It's fair to say that there's not a wasted scene anywhere in this film. It's equally fair to say that some scenes show more directorial finesse than others. Look for even greater work from this master poet.

The only disappointment is Stanley Clarke's score, an unfortunate embarrassment for Mr. Clarke who is an accomplished jazz bassist otherwise. His score shows little ability to become emotionally involved with dramatic material and no skill with scenic beats and transitions. Clarke had a major opportunity to deliver here and he blew it -- and this is truly a hard movie to screw up.

"Down in the Delta" is movie blessed with plenty of heart and a talented ensemble that delivers. Well worth two hours of your time.
2 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Much less than it should have been.
Reid-144 May 2004
This film is a pallid mediocrity which wastes the enormous talents involved in it, including the magnificent Ms. Angelou. (One wonders, though, how being a great poet and prose writer qualifies her to direct a major feature). The true crime in this film is the dreadful script which gives the characters no development beyond shallow cliche (Drug-Addicted Urban Mom, Gentle Older Rural Man). The most annoying cliche of all is the old myth that the city kills and the country heals. What a crock. Our struggles are in our souls, not our locations, and moving back home to the country won't solve anything if you are not in a position to do the hard work to heal yourself. What a waste this movie was, considering what it could have been. If anyone wishes to see what such a movie can be if done right, also with Alfre Woodard in a starring role, give "Passion Fish" a try. It is much more truthful and far better done.
2 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Great family film
deidrarichards-121 February 2014
The great thing about this film is that it's so universal. Though it is about a black family and traces its generations since slavery, what shines through is the power of family. Being around family and knowing family history has a way of giving a person a sense of purpose and self esteem that makes them feel a little more sure of himself. It's a pity though that this is not always the case, but the function of family is to heal and to give you the love and support you need to face the world. I guess that's why in this storyline, the loss of family was so tragic and the candle stick became a symbol of not just the father who was sold into slavery but the necessity of family in each person's life.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
The Work of a Poet
Scott Amundsen3 October 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Maya Angelou is a woman of many talents: poet, actor, and now film director. But it is always the poet that informs everything else she does, and DOWN IN THE DELTA is a shining example of this.

Despite the range of settings, from the gritty streets of the south side of Chicago to the rural landscape of Mississippi, this film has a lyrical quality that is all the more remarkable when you realize that Angelou did not write the script, though one senses that screenwriter Myron Goble at the very least consulted with her.

For a first-time effort by a woman who is really not a movie director, this is an astonishing film: it is true, it is real, and every emotion comes through clearly.

This is largely due to an extraordinary cast. The great Alfre Woodard plays Loretta, a woman who is drowning the difficulties of life in the Chicago ghetto with drink and, on occasion, drugs, though at this point she appears to be self-medicating occasionally and is at least partly kept in check by her mother Rosa Lynn (Mary Alice in yet another stunning performance), who makes sure she feeds her young, autistic daughter (though Loretta's response to this is to add cola to the milk in the child's bottle), and encourages her to find work, though she does so gently and stops short of nagging, until one day when Loretta, after an abortive attempt to secure a job as a supermarket cashier, heads for the nearest liquor store and buys a bottle, and in the next scene she appears to be in a drug house. Rosa Lynn is pushed beyond her endurance, and picks up the phone and calls her brother-in-law Earl (Al Freeman Jr in what just might be the performance of his career) down in Mississippi; her idea is to get Loretta and the kids out of there for the summer in the hope that reconnecting with her family and its history will bring her out of the funk she's in. She then informs her daughter that she has two choices: go stay with Earl for the summer or have her kids taken away. Frightened, Loretta listens to her mother, something we get the impression she has made a habit of not doing lately.

To finance the journey, Rosa Lynn pawns an antique silver candelabra that everyone refers to as "Nathan." Even Loretta is sober enough to be shocked by her mother's actions; the candelabra has been in the family since the Civil War, and the pawnshop gives her until September to redeem it or it will be sold. Rosa Lynn buys bus tickets and ships her wayward daughter and the kids off to her brother-in-law, with whom she has been arguing over ownership of "Nathan" for years but who nonetheless agrees to take Loretta and the kids. Because they're family and that is all the reason he needs.

Arriving at Earl's Mississippi Delta home, Loretta and the kids meet Uncle Earl for the first time. They also meet aunt Annie (Esther Rolle), Earl's wife, who is suffering from Alzheimer's disease, a situation that provides the film with added poignancy and a little bit of gentle comedy. The film does not make fun of Alzheimer's but the way the family deals with Annie's occasional difficult behavior are amusing without being in the least offensive.

Rounding out the remarkable cast are Loretta Devine as the family maid/nurse to Annie, Mpho Koaho as Loretta's son Thomas, and Wesley Snipes and Anne-Marie Johnson as Earl's lawyer son Will and his somewhat snooty wife Monica.

The visit proves to be cathartic for the entire family in so many ways that they are too numerous to list here, and the revelations that come in the film's denouement are heart-wrenching.

The performances all around are magnificent, but at the end of the day this is largely Woodard's film: she is the character with the most to lose at the beginning, and at the end she has grown into a self-actualized woman who believes in herself and for the first time has hope for the future.

The film culminates with Rosa Lynn coming down South and bringing with her the candelabra. By this time, she has told her daughter the entire history of the candelabra and what it has meant to the family, and she and her brother-in-law bury the hatchet when he hands the candelabra to Loretta and says that it is rightfully hers. Loretta's response is to return it to its rightful place on the mantelpiece.

This is a movie with a big heart. There's a lot of love in this family, and it is that love that heals the wounds they have suffered.

The film also has an extraordinary sense of place, despite the fact that the exteriors were shot in Toronto, Ontario; nowhere near the Mississippi Delta.

Made on a modest budget (shooting in Toronto was a way to save money), this movie tells its story better than a good many movies that cost ten times as much to make.

Pay a visit to the Delta. You will be moved by it.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Predictable, but well done
rag92618 January 2000
I knew how this movie was going to end after viewing the first 30 minutes. But, despite that, the journey was worthwhile. The film could have been done a better job of capturing the feeling of the "Delta" had it not been filmed in Canada.
1 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Nice film about common problems in an African-American family.
Dale-379 January 1999
A lot of the issues in this film were dealt with nicely. Alfre Woodard is a wonderful actress and does a great job of making a transaction of her character. Wesley Snipes makes a worthy appearance that's a break from his action-filled career. The problem it has is its ability to distinguish the true importance of "Nathan." Some of the camera work is amateurish, but the intentions were in the right place. Overall, a job nicely done by poet Maya Angelou.
1 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Woodard is terrific as usual, but film is glossy and shallow...
moonspinner5514 September 2008
First-time director Maya Angelou probably didn't plan on making a slick piece of goods about a hard-partying single mom who gains personal strength and direction after a move to Mississippi, but that's what she got. Perhaps too much outside interference watered down Angelou's intentions, leaving the early scenes set in the Chicago ghetto looking pat and Hollywood-ized. I didn't buy a single scene in this movie until Alfre Woodard finally transfers to her new home in the South, and from there the plot (however contrived) gained momentum and focus (much like Woodard's character). The final 30 minutes or so are really worth savoring, but there's a lot of soapy, shallow clichés to wade through first. ** from ****
0 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
A lesson in humanity
LordBlacklist31 May 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Down in the Delta is a great film but not by way of technical brilliance. This is a film in which the main drive is using the characters to tell the story. Maya Angelou takes her time to let the particulars of this tale fall into place and in the meantime creates vivid characters that grow and learn valuable lessons in life and eventually become different people during the film's running time. Alfre Woodard is the best black actress in film period, and like many other great actors or actresses she gets the shaft every awards season in favor of more mainstream actresses or ones with greater sex appeal. This film is yet another in a long line of snubbed movies that lend validity to the ever-growing fact that the Oscars are a joke, a sham, and have degraded into a downright trivial affair. The story of a family embracing their roots and making a good life outside the city is an incredibly reassuring one, but the real narrative gem of this film is the poignant and gradually revealed story of Nathan, which makes us wonder that it wasn't that long ago when the value of human life was less than that of an material object. This film deals with the ugly truth of slavery in the simplest of ways yet I found this one plot thread more compelling than the entire 156 minute running time of Amistad. Maya Angelou should direct more films in the future. Perhaps that would in some way elevate the pathetic lows cinema has reached in recent years. By contrast Americanos shows us how some thing never change. Police will always associate Latinos with gangs, and Latinos will always argue over being lumped into any category, especially "Latinos". This documentary shows us that there is such wide diversity within this "ethnic group" that how could anyone dare to call them by the same name? People represented in this film are all to happy to challenge stereotypes: like the boarder patrol officer, or take them to new, interesting, and most of all challenging heights: like those at the living art exhibit. All in all the message here is the same as in Get on the Bus: These are not Latinos, Hispanics, or all Mexicans. They are people as different from us as they are from each other, but first and foremost they are human beings, as are we all.
0 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
I liked this movie: very uplifting
JennLynn23 August 1999
This movie was very touching and uplifting. I saw it on a plane when returning from the Brittish Isles. Despite the unpleasant flight, I felt better after watching this. Usually, people fall asleep during the middle. Not in this case. Many of my friends have seen it and liked it. Most of the acting was good, and the directing was good for a beginner.
0 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Sometimes you have to go home to see where you've been
Al-12814 January 1999
With the forgivable exception of sometimes seeing the microphone (mainly because the projectionist was having problems), this was a very impressive directorial debut. You could see Maya Angelou's hand in the story line order and in the emotional impact of Loretta's rite of passage into a world that made sense and gave her a reason for her life. Of course Jesse was justified in taking Nathan. Once you find out why, it makes all kind of sense that he talked to Nathan when he needed advice. No matter what you've done in your life, you can use that experience to make your life, and maybe someone else's, better.
0 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Very Appreciative
bart-339 January 1999
"Down in the Delta" truly surprised me in that this was Ms.Angelou's debut as a director and she did not disappoint me. The cinematography was well done. I saw where they were going because I see the same things on the streets of Houston.The acting was fantastic Mpho Koaho really portrayed a good child .Alfrie Woodard as usual was excellent in her portrayal of Loretta .Al Freeman Jr. role was phenomenal his love for Nathan ,heritage ,family ,and his steadfast devotion to his wife Ester Rolle was so beautiful. Many thanks to all who put this movie together it is at the least an Honorable Mention at the Academy Awards .
0 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Warm Patchwork
RodReels-219 August 2000
This movie was like having Maya Angelou come visit. Like sharing a hot cup of coffee and some sweet treats with her. Like having her wrap a warm patchwork quilt around my shoulders. I saw the great woman speak earlier this year, and I can't help but feel that her vision fills every frame of this film. The talented cast adds so much. Alfre Woodard should be declared a national treasure. And seeing the late Esther Rolle portray an Alzheimer's victim nearly broke my heart. Bye, bye, Esther. Bye, bye!
0 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Strong cast, powerful story
Costu-218 July 2000
The opening scenes of this movie, set in inner-city Chicago, are somewhat painful and intense to watch. The wonderful cast communicates very well the conflicts and struggles of living in an urban setting and trying to improve one's lot. -- By contrast, the southern scenes (which comprise 2/3 of the movie's length) are more bucolic, on the surface at least, but the pain and struggle of the human condition is very much in evidence here as well. But also redemption, and that is what makes this movie such a positive viewing experience. -- The cast is superlative and the story-telling strong. Recommended!
0 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews