A few weeks ago, I couldn’t remember the last time I’d cried; it’d been months.
But that was before watching “Dear Zachary.” Kurt Kuenne’s film will rip your heart out and tear it into little pieces – guaranteed.
The documentary is sad, terrifying and unpredictable.
The film chronicles the life and death of Andrew Bagby, a young, affable, intelligent doctor.
A collection of interviews with many relatives, co-workers and pals, the video was originally meant for Bagby’s son, who never got to meet his father.
Pretty soon, you feel as if you knew Bagby, as his friends gush over his wonderful personality and accomplishments.
I mean, they talk about this Bagby dude like he was some saint or national treasure. But after watching some of the home movies, Bagby does seem like a standup guy.
That’s what makes the film so terribly sad.
After gradually building up viewer empathy, the film reveals that Bagby was not only killed, but was murdered by a crazy ex-girlfriend.
And then the film throws another curveball, and the audience learns that Bagby’s killer, the crazy ex-girlfriend, is pregnant with his child. The kid that’s supposed to get the film you’re watching.
But part of the reason why the film is so intriguing is not only because we’re familiarized and pushed to empathize with Bagby, but also because the circumstances are so awful.
People have a morbid fascination with death and tragedy (rubbernecking is a perfect example).
Anyway, this morbid fascination, combined with a feeling of empathy, makes “Dear Zachary” fascinating.
Kuenne also does a good job of gradually providing details.
At the beginning of the film, the audience knows that Zachary’s father is dead, but they don’t know why.
Later, it’s revealed that his ex-girlfriend is the culprit, but we don’t know that she’s pregnant.
The technique is effective, but I don’t want to spoil all of “Dear Zachary’s” twists and turns.
Unfortunately, the film isn’t without its faults.
The biggest problem I have with “Dear Zachary” is that either Kuenne cherry-picked from the interviews or his friends didn’t want to say anything negative.
Kuenne makes him seem like too good a person, and while I may be extremely cynical in saying so, nobody’s that perfect.
And, yes, I understand this was meant for his son and the film is meant to be incredibly touching and heartfelt, but still it seemed strange and unrealistic that Bagby’s friends didn’t at least joke about his negative qualities.
Secondly, the film was obviously made on a low budget, which shows in its production – effects are cheesy and tacky. But again, I assume that “Dear Zachary” wasn’t originally going to be released to the public, so its lo-fi production is understandable.
The bottom line is that you’ll cry, you’ll laugh and you’ll smile because it’s one hell of an emotional roller coaster.
—By Maxwell Shukuya