Netflix has spent the last month trying to get me to watch “Dear Zachary” and I finally caved. Oh man, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. The premise sounded sweet and endearing: A guy named Andrew Bagby died, leaving behind an infant son who would never know his father. So, Andrews best friend Kurt decides to make a movie for the poor kid. That’s the only thing I knew about this movie prior to watching it, but that’s not the half of the story… not by a long shot. I’m not too proud to tell you I cried. I turned into a blubbering mess of tears and sobbed uncontrollably. Kurt Kuenne sought to make a documentary that would tell the life story of his best friend, but wound up documenting one of the most shocking and heart-wrenching stories I have ever seen.
When Kurt Kuenne discovered that his best friend had died, he wanted to put together a movie to preserve his memory, but when it’s revealed that Andrew had been murdered by a jealous ex-girlfriend, his movie takes a dramatic turn. It’s then discovered that Andrew’s murderer, Shirley Turner, is pregnant with his child. What follows is a moving story of two grief-stricken parents, Kate and David Bagby. When Shirley flees the United States for Newfoundland, the Bagby’s sell everything and move to Canada, hellbent on rescuing their grandson and seeing that this sociopathic maniac pays for her crime.
The story of the custody battle and extradition process which emerges within this documentary are bound to unleash all sorts of terrible emotions. I found myself cupping my hands over my mouth in disbelief, anxiously bitting my nails, and crying honest to god tears of pain and horror, but the movie isn’t all heartbreak. Balanced evenly throughout the movie are interviews with everyone who knew Andrew, and Andrew knew a lot of people. His friends, and family are interviewed, including his relatives in England with whom he spent summers. When all the parts come together, Kurt Kuenne is able to weave the most compelling story about a mans life I have ever heard. By the end of it, I felt things for this guy and his family that I have never felt (and probably never will feel) about my own family. I regretted the fact that I will never be able to meet Andrew Bagby.
Let me just warn you now; there is no happy ending to Dear Zachary. You will cry (probably a whole bunch) but don’t let that stop you from seeing this movie (you need to see this movie). Even though there is a cavalcade of depression, there is just as much warmth and happiness. A word to the wise, though: don’t watch it alone. You’ll need somebody to talk to about it afterwards.
I give Dear Zachary: I’m not going to give this a score. It’s terrific. See it now.