Movie Review: ‘Burden’

NEW YORK (CNS) — The rough atmosphere of writer-director Andrew Heckler’s drama “Burden” (101 Studios) makes it anything but a family film.

Yet the harsh realism with which the movie portrays the hardscrabble world its working-class characters inhabit serves to make its uplifting conversion story all the more striking.

The fact-based tale revolves around Laurens, South Carolina, resident and veteran Ku Klux Klan member Mike Burden (Garrett Hedlund). When Mike falls for more enlightened single mom Judy (Andrea Riseborough), a clash of outlooks becomes inevitable.

Eventually, Judy demands that Mike choose between his racist pals and his burgeoning relationship with her and her endearing young son, Franklin (Taylor Gregory).

Mike makes the right decision. But he struggles with the consequences of renouncing his allegiance to local Klan leader Tom Griffin (Tom Wilkinson). Orphaned at an early age, Mike has long regarded Tom as a father figure, so the split is an emotionally taxing one. He also quickly discovers that Tom has abundant behind-the-scenes influence in Laurens.

Mike and Judy receive timely aid from a seemingly unlikely source: an African American Baptist minister, the Rev. David Kennedy (Forest Whitaker). While committed to obeying the scriptural injunction to love one’s enemies, Rev. Kennedy also is a vocal and active opponent of the Klan in general and of the offensive “museum” of the evil organization’s history that Tom has recently opened in the middle of town.

As it limns Rev. Kennedy’s healing influence on Mike, Heckler’s script is rich in such Gospel values as repentance, forgiveness, hope and the rejection of violence. Though strictly for grown-ups who can tolerate foul dialogue, including nasty epithets, it’s ultimately an inspiring reminder of the power of long-suffering, courageous, charitable love.

The film contains scenes of stylized violence, including beatings, cohabitation, a scatological incident, about a half-dozen profanities, a couple of milder oaths, constant rough and much crude and crass language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

Copyright ©2020 Catholic News Service / U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

John Mulderig

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