The Burial | TIFF 2023 | Review by: Amanda Guarragi


What begins as a small-town story about a 75-year-old funeral home owner trying to save his family business quickly turns into a complex web of race, power, and injustice. When it comes to big corporations, it’s important to note that they have gone into the industry for the wrong reasons. What could begin as a good-hearted business decision to help the family-owned businesses turns into something worse because of greed. Most of these businessmen lose their way when they near the top and forget why they started. Director Maggie Betts explores the many layers of corporate businesses in America in The Burial through a courtroom drama starring Jamie Foxx, Jurnee Smollett and Tommy Lee Jones. 

Jeremiah O’Keefe has a beautiful family and has thirteen children to carry his family legacy. He attempted to make a deal with a larger funeral home corporation to save his business because he made a faulty deal with some insurance company. O’Keefe knew it was a gamble to take the Loewen company to court, but for O’Keefe, it was the principle of a family-owned business getting what he deserved. Co-writers Dough Wright, Maggie Betts and Jonathan Harr developed a layered script that worked for his legal drama. Every step of the way, there was a new thread of information that would help O’Keefe. With every piece of information added, it did feel a bit by the numbers. 

Even though it feels generic in its execution, the performances by Foxx and Smollett are the driving force of this film. Once Betts places both of them in the courtroom in the middle of this film, that’s where they shine. This is one of the best performances Foxx has given, and it will easily become a favourite. Gary is full of heart and incredibly charismatic; he’s loud in that courtroom and won’t stand for backtalk. He knew the risk of taking this case as a personal injury lawyer, but the relationship he builds with O’Keefe throughout the case creates that emotional connection to win. Foxx and Jones have a wonderful rapport, and their relationship is the heart of this film. Gary wants to fight for O’Keefe’s family business because he knows what it’s like to work for what you want. 

The Burial may be a generic courtroom drama, but the performances shine. It is a feel-good movie with an incredible performance by Jamie Foxx that will have you smiling ear-to-ear. With this being based on a true story, what unfolds in the courtroom is shocking, and the case snowballs into something larger. This case didn’t only affect small businesses, but it shows what every company goes through. Some people will continue to take from others because they can, and it’s because no one has stopped them yet. Betts explores the morals of large corporations and how different their mindset is compared to family-owned businesses. No matter what anyone uncovers, Betts shows that it’s better to solve things with words because words have a lasting effect on everyone. 


Review by: Amanda Guarragi 

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