top of page


The Dead Don't Hurt

The Western is considered one of the greatest film genres of all time. Thousands of features - set amongst the barren plains of the American west - have been made over the years. Lord of the Rings actor Viggo Mortensen loves the genre, and decided to make his imprint on it for his second directorial effort The Dead Don’t Hurt. A sweeping romance that focuses less on the shadowy male figures, and more on the place of women in a usually male dominated space. Mortensen also stars in, wrote, produced, and scored the film. A man of many talents.


The Dead Don’t Hurt follows the relationship between French Canadian Vivienne Le Coudy (Vicky Krieps) and Danish immigrant Holger Olsen. Their blossoming romance is interrupted by Olsen’s decision to step up as a soldier in the American Civil War. With Olsen absent, Vivienne must pave her own way in unfamiliar territory. Her independence however is threatened by the all-round bad guy Weston Jeffries (Solly McLeod). 


Women are usually the footnote to a man’s journey in films that fit within this genre. But with The Dead Don’t Hurt Viggo Mortensen shifts the narrative focus onto Vivienne. Viggo’s character Olsen is a main character but there is a good chunk of the movie where he is absent, and we’re left with Vivienne as her life goes on without him. She is an independent character that exists way beyond the walls of her male counterpart. She’s interested in making her own way in life, finding a job to make her own money, looking after her child, all whilst integrating herself into the local community. It’s refreshing to have a story that breaks the status quo within the genre, giving us something new to enjoy.

True to Mortensen’s intentions, Vivienne becomes the heart of The Dead Don’t Hurt. Simply put, the film does not exist without her. Her presence is felt, even when she’s no longer physically on the screen. The impact she leaves on Olsen and her son ripple all the way to the film's beautiful closing shot. All of this wouldn’t be possible without Vicky Krieps; her casting is inspired. What she manages to communicate just through facial expressions is extraordinary. Krieps has made her name playing some of the most brilliant women in film, and Vivienne is no different. 

The Dead Don't Hurt

The Dead Don’t Hurt boasts stunning visuals. The vast exteriors made up of rocky mountains, lush forest, and barren desert towns juxtapose the intimate story. Having these quiet moments of contemplation as the characters journey through is exquisite. The sets, props, and costumes give off a further sense of authenticity. From the seedy saloon all the way down to the spurs on the characters boots. If Ken from Barbie was the horse super fan of 2023, then it’s clear Viggo Mortensen is the 2024 recipient. You sometimes get the feeling he might just have made this film because of how much he loves horses. 

The Dead Don’t Hurt ends with Olsen and Vivienne’s son reaching the ocean. It’s a beautiful moment that harks back to a conversation between Vivienne and Olsen earlier in the film. The credits roll as the waves continue to slowly amble inwards onto the shore. The Dead Don’t Hurt is quite like the ocean. On the surface it’s a vast, sprawling epic, but if you peer beneath you’ll find intimate beauty.


Rating The Dead Don't Hurt



bottom of page