Dead Man's Burden (2013)



Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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Movie Info

Set in 1870 in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War, DEAD MAN'S BURDEN is the story of Martha (Clare Bowen, ABC's Nashville) and her husband Heck (David Call, Tiny Furniture), who are struggling to make ends meet on the rural New Mexico frontier. When a mining company expresses interest in buying their land, Martha and Heck see their ticket to a better life. Their hopeful plans are soon complicated when Martha's oldest brother Wade (Barlow Jacobs, Shotgun Stories), presumed dead during the war, returns to the family homestead after learning of their father's death. A defector to the Union Army, Wade soon discovers that Martha is hiding secrets of her own. As the two siblings become reacquainted, torn between a desire to reconcile with the only family they have left and their clashing convictions, tension and suspicion continue to mount. Filmed on location in the rugged high desert of northern New Mexico, DEAD MAN'S BURDEN, shot in the style of a classic western, marks Jared Moshé's directorial debut. (c) CineDigm
Drama , Western
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:


Clare Bowen
as Martha McCurry
David Call
as Heck Kirkland
Barlow Jacobs
as Wade McCurry
Richard Riehle
as Three Penny Hank
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Critic Reviews for Dead Man's Burden

All Critics (17) | Top Critics (11)

It's a strong debut for Moshe, who, with the exception of some of the oater dialogue, shows both a reverence for and a knowledge of the genre that's intriguing.

Full Review… | May 23, 2013
Arizona Republic
Top Critic

Ponderous but lovely, simple but elegant, it should appeal to fans of Westerns.

Full Review… | May 3, 2013
Top Critic

Small in scale but with a grand visual ambition, "Dead Man's Burden" draws nourishment from its burned-out desert setting and ambling pace.

May 2, 2013
New York Times
Top Critic

Despite visual nods to dozens of classic Westerns, the film cannot break through with its own vision.

Full Review… | May 2, 2013
New York Daily News
Top Critic

The story is modest to the point of occasionally seeming slight, and the ending is a tad too cute in the way it circles back to the beginning, but even those flaws just make it feel more authentic. See it now, before it gets rediscovered.

Full Review… | May 2, 2013
AV Club
Top Critic

You never get over the feeling that you're watching modern actors play frontier-drama dress-up. It's a deathblow.

Full Review… | April 30, 2013
Time Out
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Dead Man's Burden


Some fine performances all-around, in particular Jacobs and Bowen; I'm talking award nomination material here. Moshe does a great job in his directorial/writing debut in presenting a compelling story.

Jeff B
Jeff B

In "Dead Man's Burden," Wade McCurry(Barlow Jacobs) has survived the Civil War only to find that he is not entirely done with violence just yet. And then once he gets to his family homestead in Texas, he has to prove to his younger sister Martha(Clare Bowen) and her husband Heck(David Call) that he is who he says he is and that his death was greatly exaggerated. That's only to discover that he is too late to attend his father's funeral. "Dead Man's Burden" is a great looking western that has some deep thoughts on the nature of frontier justice. But as far as any kind of story or characterization goes, the movie is sadly paper thin, with acting on the amateurish level of historical reconstructions.

Walter M.
Walter M.

Super Reviewer


Criminally overlooked, Dead Man's Burden is a stark poetic western that takes you through a gritty world of deception. The dialogue has a poetic, almost Cormac McCarthy, approach and the most intriguing aspects are the conversations between the characters rather than big action scenes. It speaks to both the mind and the heart, slow, minimalist, and with the rare quality to meet its ambition. The director obviously has a keen sense for detail and the actors disappear into the world. It is not perfect by any means (some specific things come to mind) but definitely worth a look.

Ryan Horner
Ryan Horner

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