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Shepard & Dark

HD   14A

Treva Wurmfeld

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About the Movie

Sam Shepard and Johnny Dark met in Greenwich Village in the early 1960s and, despite leading very different lives, remained close friends ever since. Shepard became a Pulitzer Prize winning playwright (Buried Child) and an Academy Award-nominated actor (The Right Stuff), while Dark was a homebody with a penchant for letter writing, photography, and supporting himself with odd jobs from dog-catcher to deli worker. Through the decades, they stayed bonded by family ties. Dark married an older woman named Scarlett and Shepard married her daughter. For years, the two couples lived together, until Shepard broke away for a relationship with Jessica Lange in 1983 leaving Johnny to help father his first son. Nevertheless, he and Dark continued writing to each other, amassing hundreds of letters. Director Treva Wurmfeld began filming the two friends in 2010 during a period of transition and reflection for Shepard. At the time, Shepard had quietly ended his relationship with Lange and accepted a proposal to publish his correspondence with Dark. The task required them to meet and sift through years of their shared history, stirring memories both good and bad. Wurmfeld observes the two men, separately and together, over a period of 18 months and captures an indelible portrait of a complex friendship. On the surface, they are like jovial siblings, having laughs at each other’s expense, but as they trace back four decades of experience, they tap into deeper subjects of love, duty, fatherhood, illness, grief, passion, money, art, freedom and isolation. Shepard has an avowed aversion to writing a memoir and prefers letting his work speak for itself, however, with rare intimacy and access to a rich archive of photographs and old family movies, Wurmfeld manages to unveil the past in a way that both speaks to his work as well as his current state of mind. Shepard has always had an arresting screen presence from his first appearance in Days of Heaven to his latest work in Mud. He’s equally compelling in the role of himself and well-matched playing opposite the screen debut of Johnny Dark.


Rotten Tomatoes Movie Reviews


  • Reviews Counted: 14
  • Fresh: 12
  • Rotten: 2
  • Average Rating: 7.4/10

Top Critics' Reviews

Fresh: Both good times and bad bubble back up to the surface, giving the film an unguarded honesty. – Chris Nashawaty, Entertainment Weekly, Sep 27, 2013

Fresh: There is just enough of Shepard's lyrical prose and Dark's depth and humor to whet the appetite. You walk out wanting to read at least a few of them beginning to end. – Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times, Oct 10, 2013

Fresh: A disarming but low-impact documentary that amounts to an odd dual biopic, "Shepard & Dark" can feel a bit like intruding on a conversation between two old friends. – Kyle Smith, New York Post, Sep 27, 2013

Fresh: The stress of their reunion yields fascinating insights into Shepard's work. – Andrea Gronvall, Chicago Reader, Oct 3, 2013

Read More About This Movie On Rotten Tomatoes
Shepard & Dark
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  • $9.99
  • Genre: Documentary
  • Released: 2013

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