AFF Review: Two Deaths of Henry Baker

Intergenerational crime drama has an Old Testament twist

Everyone must perform blood penance for the sins of the fathers in this twisty tale of family ties that mortally bind both parent and child.

Spanning a fifty-year period from 1958 to 2008, Two Deaths of Henry Baker ominously begins and tragically ends in a non-descript open field harboring a buried stolen bag of gold coins. In between, it’s a neo-pulpy western about good old-fashioned greed, with nods towards Shakespeare (intertitles appearing in the film quote lines in a passage from The Merchant of Venice) and the Book of Genesis.

After a couple of nifty left turns early in the film, the threads in the intricate narrative devised by Sebastian Pigott, doing double duty here both as screenwriter and actor in the role of a latter-day favored son, deliberately wend towards an Old Testament reckoning, relying frequently on coincidence, mistaken identity, and other revered literary contrivances.

The no-man-standing conclusion has the whiff of dramatic nihilism, and it’s nowhere as perversely operatic as you might hope it would be. Still, the film projects both a strong intelligence and lots of ambition, two attributes to be heartily applauded. Most of the cast acquit themselves nicely, particularly Joe Dinicol as a latter-day unfavored son marked by the curse of Cain. The film also features a schizy performance by Gil Bellows as two look-alike brothers, each on a different side of the same coin. Any way you flip it, the guy is a real bad penny.

Two Deaths of Henry Baker

Narrative Features, World Premiere
Screening links available until Oct. 29 at

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Austin Film Festival, Austin Film Festival 2020, Two Deaths of Henry Baker

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