When his uncle collapses and dies in the cotton fields, Texan sharecropper Sam Tucker (Scott) heeds his elder's parting advice to find a way to work for himself. Sam rents a plot of uncultivated land, only to discover that the farmstead is barely livable. Nevertheless, he and his equally enterprising wife Nona (Field), two children, and temperamental grandmother (Bondi) dig in. But a mean-spirited neighbor (Naish) and repeated acts of God threaten the family's very survival, and Sam must discover whether hard work and good intentions are enough to make it as an independent farmer.
The brilliant French director Renoir received his only Academy Award nomination for this movie: a moving, woefully underexposed portrayal of a year-in-the-life of a poor migrant family striving for the American Dream. The film is intentionally unadorned, deliberate, and contemplative; yet ultimately you can't help but be moved by the indomitable spirit of these simple, earnest, lovingly drawn characters. For fans of classic films, "The Southerner" is definitely among the cream of the crop.