Review: Dear Zachary

Kurt Kuenne decided to make a tribute to a friend he lost. His friend, Andrew Bagby was brutally murdered. But Kurt decided to celebrate the young doctor’s life instead of focus on the crime itself. He interviews several friends of Andrew and as the film progresses, we find that there is much more to the story. Especially when we are introduced to the woman who was charged with the crime. But most importantly, this is about the Bagby family and their support and love for Andrew and a young boy named Zachary.


It seems so simple, so eloquent. A collection of stories that are told to a young boy who will never see his father. But it is not hard to look deeper and find that DEAR ZACHARY is one of the most important films of the year. What starts out as a tribute to a friend, soon finds its way into what is part mystery and what is finally an important human drama. It is more complex than ninety five percent of the movies that have been released this year. It is searing, touching, heartbreaking and most definitely painful. Director Kurt Kuenne dedicates this film to his childhood friend. As a filmmaker, Kurt was always in love with film, and he made sure Andrew Bagby was in every single one of his movies. As for Andrew himself, he was the type of guy that everyone admired. He had many friends and was just beginning what might have been a successful career as a doctor. But all of that was lost when someone brutally took his life. Shot several times, he was taken in the prime of his life.

Kurt set out to make a memory come to life, but the road he found himself on was much darker than he ever expected. When an ex of Andrew is charged with his murder, Kuenne found himself facing an entirely different story. And while it is very difficult to not expand on this, I think it would be unfair in this review to explain the winding road that Kurt’s film ends up taking. You should experience the film fresh. I will say that this is a three part story, and with each part, the emotional charge gets deeper and deeper. While it truly is a sad tale of friendship and loss, it is far more unexpected, anguished and absolutely sincere. You may see it coming, but you will feel the emotional impact that will haunt you for days. Yet with that, while it may not be a fun night at the movies, Dear Zachary is an absolute must see.

As we are introduced to Andrew, we see a warmhearted individual who was very much loved. He was killed, but it is not the filmmakers intention to focus on the crime. Yes, this is part crime drama, you can’t avoid that within the events that transpired. But it is more a story, or possibly a testament to the Bagby family. Kurt interviews several individuals, including a very touching, and quite sad moment where a young boy asks his father why the man died. If you are prone to get teary-eyed during a film, well you will do much more than swell up here, this is a box of tissue type of movie for you. But it is done in such an assured fashion and it certainly is not in any way contrived. This is real drama presented in a witty, yet matter of fact way that makes the emotional core that much more effective.

I would love to go into detail about the beginning, middle and end. After all, it is a documentary, what could be so secretive? You’d be surprised. I wanted so much for this to end a certain way, but history has been told, and it is not always a world of joy. But luckily, there is humor and there is heart here. And like any good documentary, it raises a lot of questions, ones which should be answered. In particular, it asks why somebody who is suspected of a very violent act gets treated like she spray painted somebody’s home. As I mentioned, you will learn a whole lot about the sometimes ridiculous amount of time it takes to put someone on trial for murder. You will learn about the kind of love it takes to be able to be there for your family. And you will learn that Kurt Kuenne has made what is easily one of the best films of the year. It is a disturbing and emotional journey that will leave you shocked to the core.

I do feel that as a viewer, I would have liked to see more of the criminal case presented. Kurt is telling the story from a very personal aspect. While there is nothing wrong with that, I would almost have loved to see a Michael Moore type of moment confronting a few of the people that let tragedy happen. But again, Kurt was focused on Andrew and Zachary. He has done an impressive job here and it goes to show you, sometimes it truly is a good idea to talk about what you know. And with Dear Zachary, Kurt has revealed a very personal and tragic story that you will not forget.

My rating 9/10JimmyO

Review: Dear Zachary




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JimmyO is one of’s longest-tenured writers, with him reviewing movies and interviewing celebrities since 2007 as the site’s Los Angeles correspondent.