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Film / The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada

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The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada is a 2005 neo-Western crime drama film directed by and starring Tommy Lee Jones in his directorial debut.

Melquiades Estrada (Julio Cesar Cedillo), a Mexican working as a ranch hand in Texas, is killed through a misunderstanding, and his body hidden in a shallow grave. After his body is discovered, it is given a proper burial, but Melquiades' best friend Pete (Jones), who knows that he wanted to be buried in Mexico, decides to steal the body and take it back to Melquiades' home town — with the extremely unwilling assistance of Norton (Barry Pepper), the man who killed him.


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  • Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie: Pete, knowing that Melquiades wanted to be buried at home in Mexico, decides to dig up his body and take it back to Mexico for re-burial.
  • Character Development: The whole plan to bury Melquiades in Mexico seems to be as much about burying him where he wanted, as it is about forcing Norton into becoming a better person.
  • A Date with Rosie Palms: The sound of Melquiades' shooting a coyote interrupts Norton's alone time with a dirty mag. Apart from a comment on his wedded life, it shows a neglectful attitude to his job as a border guard that costed Melquiades his life; had Norton paid attention to his surroundings, he might've assessed the situation correctly.
  • Grave Robbing: Whether or not Melquiades would have wished it, Pete and (forcibly) Norton do this when they dig him up.
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  • I Cannot Self-Terminate: The party meets an old, blind man who asks to be killed. See, life ain't easy, he's old, and to commit suicide would be a sin. They reply killing him would be a sin, too.
  • New Old West: The protagonists are cowboys and frontiersmen, and most of the film consists of their travel through wilderness areas, with what little civilization is shown being minor settlements in the countryside.
  • Riddle for the Ages: Just what was it that Melquiades really had in mind? The place he claimed he was from turned out nothing like he had described, including the people living there, although by all means it seemed to be the right one. The implication seems to be that Melquiades told Pete tall tales, perhaps of how he wished things were back home.

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