In Theatres: 
Mar 06, 2020

Despite the progress our country has made in regards to racism, we still have a long ways to go. Burden is a reminder to that. Based on a true story, the film tells the story of a klansman who breaks away from the group after falling in love and learning about compassion with the help of a preacher. The story and film feel right out of the 60s, but in truth it’s from 1996. While the film has a heartfelt message about hope, forgiveness, and acceptance, it spends way too much time trying to get said message across rather than delivering a captivating story.


Mike Burden (Garrett Hedlund) was orphaned as a child and raised in the KKK so all he ever knew was hate. The Klan’s latest act of racism was the grand opening of the Redneck Shop in South Carolina that celebrated white nationalism, despite protests led by the Reverend David Kennedy (Forest Whitaker). While Mike is deeply embedded with the Klan, he begins to have a change of heart when he meets Judy (Andrea Riseborough) and begins to fall in love. Slowly she chips away at his hate and he leaves the Klan. But saying no to them comes with consequences and he finds himself struggling to make ends meet due to the Klan’s reach within the community. He then finds help in the unlikeliest of places, Reverend Kennedy, who shows him that above all else love with triumph over hate.


What sticks out the most with Burden is the fact that this is from the late 90s and not the 60s or 70s. I wanted to believe that we were better as a society by that point, but clearly there was still plenty of work to be done. There still is today in 2020 as the film is more relevant than ever perhaps. It’s a sad reflection of a problem that doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon. But like the film there is hope. There are pockets of good that slowly chip away at the hate. If anything, Burden is a reminder that ultimately its compassion that will win out over violence.


While its message comes from a place of love, Burden struggles with its other aspects. The acting can be all over the place with Forest Whitaker being the clear standout of the film. On the other end there was Garrett Hedlund, who unfortunately never seemed convincing enough to properly play the transition from klansmen to reformed man. Whether it’s from the script, his performance, or a combination of both, there’s an indifference to every decision he makes. It conveys the sense that he’s just going along with whatever decisions are being made for him rather than actively making them himself. It gets better towards the end, but his change from a racist KKK member to a reformed citizen feels forced and too spur of the moment.


Burden has a heartwarming message at its core but it’s too much of a slog to get there unfortunately. It’s still a good reminder that there’s always work that needs to be done to improve ourselves and society, there are just plenty of other films that have done it better.

Matt Rodriguez
Review by Matt Rodriguez
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