Wednesday, May 29, 2013 at 02:37PM
James Oxyer in Documentary

There are a few reasons why I'm giving my thoughts on Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father, and not in the form of a full review. One, it's fairly recent, having just come from 2008. Two, it's not that obscure, with several people discovering it on Netflix and by simple word of mouth. And finally, simply put, this isn't a movie that can be discussed with a full review without giving key points away that are imperative to this movie's overall effect.

Dear Zachary is a documentary made by Kurt Kuenne, originally intended to be a memorial film about his friend, Andrew, who was killed in a parking lot. However, all that is changed when it is revealed that Andrew's ex-girlfriend, who was also the prime suspect in the murder investigation, is pregnant with Andrew's baby. Now, the documentary becomes a memorial film for the child, Zachary, so he can see what a great man his father was. Things do get complicated, but ruining this movie would be criminal.

Prior to a few days ago, I had never cried at a movie. There have been films that have gotten me emotional, and some have come close to opening the floodgates, but none have succeeded. Until now. Dear Zachary is what did it for me, and I'm not afraid to admit it, because frankly, I can't see anyone not crying by the time this movie ends. Most of this is because the events in this movie actually occured and are 10x more depressing than anything you're apt to see in fictional films. I'll try to talk about this movie without ruining anything, as a great portion of the movie's effect is derived from a one-two punch to the gut then to the balls a while into the film.

However, if you simply look at it from a critical perspective, it's not a terribly good documentary. Director Kuenne uses editing and narration to strongly support one side of the argument this movie is making (against the Canadian judicial system) instead of strictly presenting the information and letting the audience decide for themselves what they believe. However, this is where you stop looking at it as a critic and start looking at it as a human being. The reason Kuenne feverishly rubs the audeince's noses in one side of the argument is because after the beyond-atrocious events in this movie, that really is the only side that should be chosen for support. And when I say Kuenne rubs the viewer's nose in what happens, I definitely mean it. Most of the documentary is composed of home movies and videos made with Andrew in it, so it's not the flashiest or the cleanest documentary you'll ever see, but it doesn't need to be; the raw feel of the footage adds to the "this actually happened" vibe the movie's going for. 

Now here's the dilemma: do I recommend Dear Zachary or should I warn people away? Well, neither. Watch it if you want to. I feel this is a movie that needs to be seen, but actually watching it is far from pleasant. If you're up for a documentary that will leave you depressed, infuriated, and emotionally destroyed, go for it. No matter who you are, if you watch this movie, it will stay with you. I only watched it recently, but I'm fairly certain I'm not going to forget about this any time soon. If I were to rate it, Dear Zachary would get a 10 and nothing less. It's a shame that not too many people out there have discovered this, but with Netflix as popular as ever and how you can't not tell your friends about this movie after watching it, I don't think Dear Zachary's popularity will do anything but grow. If you're looking for a great documentary, look no further. But don't say I didn't warn you.

Article originally appeared on obscurecinema101 (http://www.obscurecinema101.com/).
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