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Sounder is a 1972 American drama film that offers a heartwarming chronicle of African American life and the human spirit during the Great Depression. Directed by Martin Ritt, it stars Cicely Tyson, Paul Winfield, and Kevin Hooks. The movie is named after the family's purposeful and reliable hound dog, and is based on the Newbery Medal-winning novel of the same name by William H. Armstrong.

Set against the backdrop of late 1930s Louisiana, the film unfolds the story of an African American sharecropping family. The Morgans—father David Lee, mother Rebecca, and their children David Jr., Earl, and Josie Mae—are depicted as robust and loving, even amid poverty and oppressive social conditions. The undying spirit of this family and their deep-seated values form the emotional core of Sounder.

The audience is first introduced to the Morgan family where they struggle to eke out a humble living by cultivating land that they don’t own. The eldest son, David Jr., powerfully played by Kevin Hooks, holds a prominent place in the narrative. His wishes to go to school and his thirst for knowledge strikes a poignant contrast to the demanding necessities of his family's subsistence farming life.

Cicely Tyson and Paul Winfield, both renowned actors, deliver astonishing performances as Rebecca and David Lee Morgan. Rebecca, the family's backbone, is stoic and nurturing, her unwavering love for her family is matched by her tireless efforts to maintain their hope in times of adversity. Winfield delivers a poignant yet stoic rendition of the father, a man who labors relentlessly against poverty and prejudice for his family's survival and wellbeing.

The moment David Lee is arrested for stealing food for his starving family marks a crux as tension unfolds. The resilience of the family is truly tested as they deal not only with the absence of their beloved father and husband, but also with the harsh, unending demands of the impoverished life they lead.

Despite the painful circumstances, Sounder beautifully explores the family’s love, resilience, and determination. The film's inherent strength lies in the director's choice to zero in on the family's emotional journey rather than focusing solely on the era's troubling social issues. Thus, Sounder addresses the harsh socio-political realities of the era while also crystallizing an authentic narrative of family, love, strength, and the human spirit.

One of the notable elements of Sounder is its powerful depiction of relationships. Between a son and his imprisoned father, between a husband and his strong-willed wife, and between siblings who share the burden of their parents' struggles. Nuanced performances by the ensemble cast and sweeping cinematography capturing the stark beauty of the southern landscape add a profound depth to these relationships.

Moreover, the film grants significant attention to David Jr.’s pursuit of education, serving an optimistic subplot about seeking paths of opportunity even in the most discouraging conditions. This underscores the film’s message of hope and the power of education as a means to overcome hardships.

Sounder strikes a chord through its noteworthy music, composed by Taj Mahal. The bluesy folk and gospel-inspired tracks accompany the story well, perfecting the atmosphere, and lending a unique authenticity to time and place.

Endowed with an innate authenticity, Sounder rests not on gratuitous melodrama but on subtly nuanced performances, a deeply emotional narrative, and breathtaking imagery—a testament to Ritt's cinematic craftsmanship paired with Leon Bibb's captivating screenplay.

In summary, Sounder is an extraordinary expression of stoicism, resolve, and family love amidst adversity. With strong performances and a compelling narrative, it offers a riveting glimpse into a part of history often overlooked in popular storytelling. This moving story laced with hope, endurance, and resilience enjoys a respected place in the annals of American cinema. It’s more than just a film - it’s a tribute to the indomitable spirit of humanity against formidable odds.

Sounder is a Drama movie released in 1972. It has a runtime of 105 min. Critics and viewers have rated it moderate reviews, with an IMDb score of 7.5. It also holds a MetaScore of 80.

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Where can I stream Sounder movie online? Sounder is available to watch and stream, buy on demand, download at Amazon Prime, Apple TV Channels, FuboTV, Peacock, Plex, The Roku Channel Free, Pluto TV, Tubi TV, Kanopy, Apple TV, Amazon. Some platforms allow you to rent Sounder for a limited time or purchase the movie for downloading.

Martin Ritt
Cicely Tyson, Paul Winfield, Kevin Hooks, Carmen Mathews, Taj Mahal, Eric Hooks
Also starring Francois Delaive
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