Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father (2008)

dearzacharyA few days ago my brother-in-law texted me with a film recommendation. His taste usually aligns with mine so my interest was piqued. I was devastated to see what he sent. As my eyes swept the letters, D-E-A-R  Z-A-C…..I stopped. I got the washing machine feeling in my stomach. I was very familiar with Dear Zachary. Lindsey and I watched it on YouTube about a year ago.

I informed him that I indeed already watched the film and sent him a couple of remarks. But after Clayton texted me, I couldn’t and can’t stop thinking about it. I was inspired to write some quick thoughts about Dear Zachery. Because the possibility of others being unaware of this Documentary made me very sad.

You see, Dear Zachary isn’t a film you just write about. It demands reflection and attention. I was left blank. I certainly didn’t want to re-watch, and then it hit me. A perfect first line:

I will never forget Dear Zachary, but I never want to see it again.

I guess anyone that has seen this film will agree with me that going in blind is the only way to fully appreciate the full extent of what director Kuenne has created here. Purely on a cinematic, storytelling level, this film is astounding. It is edited, narrated and structured perfectly. It manages to slowly suck you in and unfolds its story and eventual sentiment behind it so beautifully that you hardly even notice it is happening. It has that rare quality of making time disappear, leaving only you and a story and what it does to you. That, in itself, is a unique and powerful thing. A lost art nowadays.

And then there is the actual story. The reason why this film was made alone is an inspiring sentiment, but the road it leads you down will probably make you feel the broadest spectrum of emotions imaginable. There were pieces where I smiled as if I remembered a dear friend, pieces where I actually wanted to shout at the screen in rage, pieces that made my jaw drop to the floor. And there were pieces where the grief, sadness and emotional despair beat down upon me so relentlessly I could do nothing but cringe and shed a tear with all involved. And the most important reason for all that happening was that it was real, heartfelt and honest. None of what I just typed is an exaggeration.

As sad and angering as most of it was, this is, in the end, one of the most life affirming films I’ve seen in a while. It shows something we often forget we need, that connection to others. I have a personal belief that a worthwhile life and joyful soul resides in the connections we have to other people, to our families and random acts of kindness. And that is something this documentary, through tears of pain and anger, manages to capture with utmost sincerity.

To say Dear Zachary is a must-see would be an understatement. Tragic is a great word to describe Dear Zachary for many reasons. But the greatest misfortune of all would be to miss such a heart wrenching, honest look into the humanity in which we live in. Not to exhaust ourselves over the bad, but to learn to see the good through tragedy.

 

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