Dear Zoe (Drama) [Based on Novel] (2022)
Director: Gren Wells
Writer: Marc Lhormer, Melissa Martin, Philip Beard (Based on Novel by)
Stars: Sadie Sink, Theo Rossi, Kweku Collins, Mckenzie Noel Rusiewicz
After the loss of her younger sister in a hit-and-run accident the very same day 9/11 happened. Tess finds comfort in her estranged father and falls in love with his unkempt neighbour.
Illustrating grief and the path to discovery, such as love. In her second directorial feature film, Gren Wells adapts the novel by Philip Beard. Being filmed in only two months, it acquired the right to make the adaptation. It has been produced by Zin Haze Productions and Resonate Entertainment and distributed by Freestyle Digital Media.
On the same day as the 9/11 attacks, a young woman called Tess (Sadie Sink) loses her baby sister. Forced into grief counselling with her family, a hard-time is sure, but Tess flees to her estranged father, hoping to distance herself from the accident. There she encounters Jimmy (Kweku Collins), whom she falls in love with.
Each of us has dealt with grief in some way, but perhaps the most difficult hardship is losing a child or sibling. Sink’s Tess struggles with this pain and finds solace in drawing and romance. An emotional drama illustrates the seemingly uncurable pain while working on accepting the love of a family member.
Headed by Sadie Sink, supported by Theo Rossi ‘’Dear Zoe’’ opens with unimaginable grief, just having brought her sister to the hospital. These moments are told in a combination of self-narration and genuine acting. Suffering within the family is shown really well here and would be recognisable to anyone having dealt with similar situations. This effective start, somewhat like ‘’The Fallout’’, moves the family drama towards Sink’s Tess alone as she runs away from home and goes to live at her father’s house.
While I can respect Gren Wells in deciding to adapt such a human and simple tale of grief — not everything works entirely as intended for a movie format. The self-narration is discarded rather quickly, as she tries to distract herself by getting close to her father, and finding a new love-interest in the dishevelled neighbour Jimmy (Kweku Collins). Minor confrontations and the performances work, but as it moves on, the relatable nature of it all fades away, and it seems unsure of where the narrative is going. Substance is essential, and it seems to lean too much on the fickle romance between Jimmy and Tess, something we’ve seen before.
There’s honesty in Wells’ adaptation of Beard’s novel. Still, the initial emotional hook is depreciated by an almost TV-movie-quality light-drama style and over-reliance on the aforementioned romance. It’s lovely to see Sadie Sink in other roles after finding fame in the ‘’Fear Street’’ film series and ‘’Stranger Things’’, but the reliance in ‘’Dear Zoe’’ on its strong start kills it in the end as it scratches back to what made it work, hoping to get back the initial response by the viewer.
Dear Gren, embrace the unique elements of your film.