Down in the Delta (1998) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • Rosa Lynn sends her druggie daughter Loretta and her children Thomas and Tracy away from the big city to live with their uncle Earl in the ancestral home in rural Mississippi. Earl puts Loretta to work in his restaurant, Just Chicken, while also telling them about the generations of their family, the Sinclairs, dating back to their time in slavery before the the Civil War.


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  • Single, drug-using mom Loretta Sinclair (Alfre Woodard) lives in a rough Chicago neighborhood with her mother, Rosa Lynn (Mary Alice) and two children, 11-year-old Thomas (Mpho Koaho) and little autistic Tracy (Kulani Hassen). Afraid that her daughter's situation will deteriorate, Rosa Lynn decides to send her daughter and grandchildren to spend the summer with her cousin Earl (Al Freeman, Jr.) in the Mississippi delta.

    Before their departure, Rosa Lynn pawns a family heirloom candelabrum they refer to as "Nathan", the name of their slave ancestor. Exiting the pawn shop, Loretta throws the pawn ticket in a wastebasket, but on a whim retrieves it; perhaps she thinks she can redeem Nathan later for drugs.

    The three are welcomed in rural Mississippi by Earl, a man of few words yet wise, where he lives with his senile wife Annie (Esther Rolle) who is cared for by a housekeeper. Earl puts Loretta to work in his chicken joint, where she understandably has a hard time keeping up with the work and the demands of a schedule.

    Eventually they all bloom, with Thomas teaching Loretta enough arithmetic to be able to waitress and thus make more in tips; Loretta becoming friendly with a nice local customer named Carl (Nigel Shawn Williams), and Tracy actually saying her first words.

    While a few calamities ensue, one involving Earl teaching Thomas about guns and the other when Annie wanders outside unsupervised, by the end of the summer the initially sullen Loretta decides to stay on and make her life in the delta. In the final scene, Nathan is redeemed and Earl tells them all of their proud family heritage.

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