11th Jun2024

‘The Dead Don’t Hurt’ Review

by James Rodrigues

Stars: Vicky Krieps, Viggo Mortensen, Danny Huston, Solly McLeod, Garret Dillahunt, W. Earl Brown, Shane Graham, Rafel Plana, Alex Breaux, Jason Clarke | Written and Directed by Viggo Mortensen

While he is known for a fruitful acting career which includes latter David Cronenberg films, the Oscar-winning Green Book, and The Lord of The Rings trilogy, Viggo Mortensen has also begun directing features. His directorial debut, Falling, premiered at 2020’s Sundance Film Festival before lockdowns led to it being quietly released during tumultuous times. His follow-up, The Dead Don’t Hurt, changes gears to tell a story within the American Frontier.

Set in the 1860s, French-Canadian Vivienne Le Coudy (Vicky Krieps) is a fiercely independent woman who bristles at the idea of being married to a snooty aristocrat. After meeting Danish immigrant Holger Olsen (Mortensen), the pair fall in love and attempt to forge a new life together in a dusty town. Their peaceful days are shattered when the Civil War tears them apart, due to Olsen choosing to fight for the Union. This leaves Vivienne to fend for herself in a place controlled by a corrupt mayor (Danny Huston) and his immoral business partner (Garret Dillahunt), the latter of whom is regularly covering up the violent actions of his son (Solly McLeod).

During my screening of The Dead Don’t Hurt, a considerable number of people walked out early on, and it is understandable to see why. As the first hour of this 130-minute film intends to luxuriate in the central couple’s romance, the unfolding pace unfortunately felt sluggish and somewhat impenetrable. As present-day scenes show a tragedy which befalls their relationship, the flashbacks capturing these lost souls finding one another can, unfortunately, feel meandering.

That changes courtesy of a life-altering event, considerably impacting the story and its characters. After this is revealed to viewers, the story is better settled for a touching tale of love trying to persevere within a world of people inflicting pain and hurt upon others. It cannot make up for the antagonists feeling underdeveloped or the by-the-numbers action beats, yet it is all part of the tapestry where the terrific central performances capture this film’s beating heart. Considering that Mortensen’s credits involve acting, writing, directing, producing, and composing, The Dead Don’t Hurt shows him putting his all into this sophomore work as a filmmaker.

*** 3/5

The Dead Don’t Hurt is in UK cinemas now.


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