Best Movies of All Time + Shirley Turner


Not Rated

Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father is a 2008 documentary that was written and directed by Kurt Kuenne. It follows his quest around the country trying to get as many stories and tidbits of information he can about his best friend, Andrew Bagby, who had been murdered near his home in Pennsylvania. During his travels, he learns that the woman accused of the murder, Andrew's ex-girlfriend Shirley Turner, has announced that she is four months pregnant with Andrew's child. As soon as they are medically certain of her claim, Andrew's parents - David and Kate - rush to Newfoundland, Canada (where Turner has fled after the murder accusations) in order to fight for custody of the child. Unfortunately, a very long and trying courtroom battle ensues that pits the Bagby's against the woman who murdered their only child.

I'm going to try my best to get through this review in an understandable fashion because I'm still reeling from this movie. I think I should start with this disclaimer: this movie is not for the faint of heart. If you're not okay with handling extreme emotional swings, then this movie probably isn't for you. It's going to take you on a journey that you may very well regret taking; at least, that's where I'm at right now. Well, it's slight regret, I suppose, because Dear Zachary is hands down the greatest documentary I have ever seen, and it's easily one of the greatest films I have ever seen.

There's so much I could say about the storyline, but if I tell you now, you won't receive the emotional impact of the film because you'll subconsciously brace yourself for the happenings within. One of the reasons this movie is so effective is because it plays like a first-rate crime thriller rather than a documentary. And yet, you never lose focus on the fact that all of this actually happened, and that just makes it all the more gripping. Kuenne did a fantastic job with editing, moving the moments along at a mile a minute. He also took the footage he had - a great deal, as you'll see - and whittled it down to the most pressing and most endearing portrait of a man who was loved by so many people. By the end of the movie, I felt like I knew Andrew Bagby intimately, and I was truly devastated by the loss of such an amazing person. Few documentaries have made me care so much about the central character (one exception being 2009's The Cove, another brutally emotional experience), but Dear Zachary is completely effective.

As with any documentary, a big part of a film's draw is the quality of the interviews surrounding the overall story. David and Kate Bagby, who essentially work as our leads, are so relatable that it's difficult not to fall in love with them instantly. The pain they've suffered as a result of the events shown in the film is palpable, but through it all, you see the strength within each of them rise to the surface as they fight for the life of their grandson. It's truly inspiring. We also have very effective interviews with the people closest to Andrew and Zachary who only paint the best pictures of them. I think it would be impossible not to be captivated by their descriptions. I wish I had known these people and had them in my life because they have obviously touched so many.

As I previously said, Dear Zachary is not a film for everyone. It's going to put you through the ringer. I will say without qualms that I shed many a tear during its entirety, and I have no shame in saying so. It's very emotionally draining, and you may hate it during its course. However, I think that once its all said and done, you'll see the movie for what it truly is: a labor of love from and for loving people who have been affected by a tragedy the likes that no one should ever have to experience.

Movie Review Summary:Grade: A+
Current All-Time Rank: Best - #20
2 Thumbs Up
Addition to Awards

2008, Andrew Bagby, David Bagby, Dear Zachary, doc, Kate Bagby, Kurt Kuenne, movie review, NR, and more: