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The Dead Don’t Hurt (Film Review)

2 min read

Signature Media

The Dead Don’t Hurt is a western by Aragorn himself, Viggo Mortensen. His directorial debut is an interesting one, a western with a more European flavour than usual and not in the spaghetti western sense.

Viggo Mortensen takes top billing as the Danish cowboy Holger Olsen, but the film’s focus is shared with Vicky Krieps, who delivers a compelling performance as Vivienne Le Coudy, the American-born daughter of Franco-Canadian parents.

Born to an independent father and mother, Vivienne wants more from life than what is traditional in 19th century America. Enter Holger Olsen, the calm, debonair, and European liberal who sweeps Vivienne off her feet and offers her the more equitable companionship she desires.

The idyllic life that Holger and Vivienne build is disrupted by the US Civil War, one that Holger feels compelled to fight for many reasons—some legitimate (like anti-slavery) and some not so much (curiosity), which leaves Vivienne alone and vulnerable in a town run by very, very bad people, the worst of whom is the sadistic Weston Jeffries, played brilliantly by Solly McLeod.

The Dead Don’t Hurt contains all of the usual western trappings, but it has a different mindset at its core: more considered, more human. We have shootouts that are brutal and violent, but we also have consideration, forgiveness, and discussion. The drama in The Dead Don’t Hurt comes from people learning to love and understand each other, rather than hate born from conflict. It is also a movie examines the agency of women, then and now—the frustration born from being capable of so much in a world that is desperate to impose its desire for you to do so little.

The movie’s frozen pace may put some off, especially at the start. It doesn’t rush the setup of the film, and the chronology is a little confusing to begin with. However, once it gets into its stride, or you, the viewer, start to approach it on its terms, it builds and grows into a film that has some incredibly moving moments of beauty, anger, defiance, and intense sadness. It’s almost a given that a western will be beautifully shot; the American landscape was made for lingering wide shots of rugged terrain. The Dead Don’t Hurt is no exception.

The Dead Don’t Hurt is a “grown-up” western that examines the macho stereotype of the leading man and instead puts us in the shoes of a frontier woman and the hardships many women did, and still have, to endure. The film takes maybe too much time to get going, but once it does, it has the power to legitimately move you.

The Dead Don’t Hurt is exclusively in UK and Irish Cinemas 7 June