Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father Film Review (2008) [Classic Film Review]

*dedicated to my best friends, Ethan and Rowan. You mean the world to me, and I would do anything and everything for you two*

So today I watched a documentary entitled Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father…

Dear Zachary is a personal account of film maker Kurt Kuenne’s best friend Andrew Bagby. On November 6th, 2001, Bagby was murdered and the prime suspect was his ex girlfriend Shirley Turner. Turner, at this time, was also pregnant with Andrew’s unborn son, who would be named Zachary. The film recounts the toxic custody battle between Andrew’s parents and Shirley for Zachary, the murder suicide that resulted in Shirley and Zachary’s death, and the Bagby parent’s activism.

This was…so many things. Heart wrenching, devastating, infuriating, but most importantly, it was absolutely masterful. A deeply personal and beautiful tribute to a friend and his son, and a damning indictment of our justice system.

Amazing editing, beautiful interviews, amazing score (Kuenne practically did everything in this movie, and he has shown himself to be a talent), brilliant use of archival information, important discussion of issues, etc.

This film was heart breaking. When they revealed that Shirley had killed Zachary and herself, I started bawling my eyes out. This then made every instance of our justice system letting this woman go because she apparently was not a threat or not prone to killing anymore not just shocking, but it made me furious. How our legal system could not only ignore the red flag that is a psychiatrist posting bail for an accused murderer, and thinking she was okay to walk the streets, is absolutely beyond me. It makes me physically sick.

This heartbreak and fury was all channeled and amazingly conveyed through Kuenne’s film making. When they revealed the death of Zachary, the screen started to violently shake, the strings blared to a point it became white noise, all interspersed with Andrew’s parent’s cries of anger and want for vengeance.

But he not only conveyed anger, he also conveyed how important Zachary and Andrew were to everyone they knew. The footage of them making movies, all of his friends talking about how funny, and intelligent he was. He conveyed how important Zachary was to Andrew’s parents, how happy they made each other, and how adorable he was. Coupled with the music, and swift editing, it made me truly think that this guy was a class act, and we lost a class act, and his beautiful son.

Honestly, my one slight complaint is that the scenes where he edited mouth movements on the shitty officials that were involved with Turner’s case…I found them to be a tad…tacky. I understood the point, and the emotion, and why he made that choice, and ultimately it’s just a personal preference of mine and doesn’t really detract from the movie, I just didn’t quite care for it. But small potatoes.

Overall, this is a movie that made me value what great people I have in my life. Because at any moment, a monster can come in and take it all away. Tragic, enveloping, but most of all, a masterpiece. Watch. This. Movie.

10 out of 10

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