There’s a deeply human and emotional connection with “Sounder” and it’s all captured through the brilliance of its characters and actors. From Paul Winfield’s performance as the desperate and frustrated father, to the resoundingly powerful role of Cicely Tyson as the mother who has to run the family farm while her husband is sent to prison, and even Kevin Hooks as the confused young man who has to grow up without his father around, the famial bond is not just believable but resounding. Never once did anything feel forced or ham-fisted, but rather a hard earned struggle through the great depression in Lousiana where everything is against this family.
Yet it’s difficult to say “Sounder” was always appreciated. Released in 1972, it came hot off the heels of big blacksplotation films like “Shaft” and “Sweet Sweetback’s Badass Song.” And while “Sounder” isn’t exploitative in the slightest, giving a valid and honest look at the black experience in America while also giving a great family cinematic experience, black audiences thought the film hit too close to home and the film never struck well with most audiences in the 1970s. Luckily, “Sounder” has certainly found an audience nowadays that can appreciate it as the truly heartwarming experience it deserves to be.
Final Grade: A-