In Charles Burnett’s independent feature, an extended family of middle-class blacks is invaded by Harry (Danny Glover), an old friend from the Deep South who is still rooted in the past. At first, he seems a benign, even jolly fellow, with an easy, rollicking laugh and the open manner of someone who has made peace with his demons. As the film goes on, though, Harry himself starts to seem like a demon. His presence begins to unsettle the family, raising old resentments and even causing a mysterious illness. Yet the tone of the movie remains buoyant, even raucous.
Burnett is nothing if not ambitious. In fact, he may be too ambitious; To Sleep With Anger is so jammed with characters, jokes, and murky folkloric layers that it never quite finds a mood. Glover, though, gives a rich comic performance. C+