The Dead Don’t Die: When Allegory Is Too Real

When I watched The Dead Don’t Die, I was in near the right frame of mind with nearly correct expectations. I haven’t watched a lot of Jarmusch movies. In fact, I don’t even know if I’ve watched any. For about a year I had a copy of Deadman sitting on my shelf. A friend had loaned it to me. I cannot for the life of me recall if I watched it or not. I think I at least started to, or was that just the trailer?

[Spoilers Ahead]

Lack of Jarmusch experience aside, I had an idea of what to expect when one of “those kind of directors” decides to do a zombie movie. What I wasn’t expecting was a story that kinda mostly goes nowhere. Some things happen. There’s the illusion of time passing and progression. Then I began to realize that we’re still at the beginning of the movie. 

And then it was over.

While I’d enjoyed my time watching, all the actors were fantastic. The banter between Murray and Driver is what did it for me. For years Adam Driver has reminded me of a real life Napoleon Dynamite and I finally got to see him do something close.

However as the night and the next day drew on, I found myself becoming more and more frustrated by the pacing of the story. Each time the characters put it all together and seemed to answer the call to action, the very next scene would be them putting it together all over again. They hadn’t necessarily forgotten about the zombies or the things that had happened. Out of laziness or shutting down due to being overwhelmed, the call to action had been put on hold. 

I headed off to the internet to find views that aligned with mine to bolster my opinion. It was my duty. Luckily, it was not hard to find disappointed people with unfavorable reviews on the internet. I’d found my echo chamber on Rotten Tomatoes and had my stance validated within minutes. 

The next day I was audibly complaining to my wife. She was doing her best to appear that she was listening while thinking about anything else. I was in the middle of complaining about the call to action when I finally figured it out. The behavior of so many characters in the movie is exactly how we’ve been handling climate change. Each time they decided to do something, to answer the call to action, they didn’t do much. Certainly never enough. Horrible things kept occurring. People kept dying. Yet, no one could actually get their act together and deal with it. Chloe Sevigny’s character became so less irritating as I realized most of us are feeling her fear and powerlessness. She bought a hybrid to do her part. Driver’s character drives a smart car. Neither are very effective in curbing what’s happening. 

In that one brief moment my opinion of the film changed. If the reviews on the internet are anything to go by, a lot of people haven’t had that moment yet. Instead thinking that poor pacing is an issue with the writing. Instead, it’s allegory that is all too real. 


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