A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Testimony to the power of family, friendship, and loyalty in preserving someone's legacy; the power of persistence in righting wrongs or working to change the criminal justice system. Illustrates the need for greater victim advocacy, particularly for children.
Positive Role Models
Andrew Bagby is shown as a kind, caring person; his parents, Kate and David, are extraordinarily devoted to their son and grandson and are impassioned activists committed to changing the legal system to better protect victims and their families. Bagby's friends and former colleagues are compassionate and supportive in preserving his legacy and are a part of his son's life.
Violence & Scariness
Spoiler alert: A murder by multiple gunshots is recounted in news clips, TV broadcasts, discussions, and indirect reenactments; a woman drowns a child and then herself.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
An interview subject says Bagby's girlfriend used to describe sex between them in crass terms.
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Multiple uses of "f--k"; also "hell," "s--t," "bitch," "a--hole," "Jesus Christ," "piss," and "goddamn."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Archival footage includes champagne at wedding; two men drink a beer to commemorate a friend; photo of woman who looks inebriated shown repeatedly.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father is a crime documentary about the 2001 murder of Andrew Bagby. It draws on interviews with friends, family members, and former colleagues about his life, with the focus on his alleged killer, ex-girlfriend Shirley Turner. It's very emotionally wrenching, due to the understandable sadness and anguish suffered by Bagby's friends and family. It contains profanity throughout (including "f--k") and a few gut-wrenching plot twists, one of which involves a heartbreaking tragedy related to a child. Though there's no graphic violent imagery, the documentary's filming style is intense and often replays emotions and new discoveries for particularly dramatic effect. It also intercuts the sound of gunshots with pictures of the deceased as a child or teenager. Best for mature teens and older, but likely to disturb anyone who watches it. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Dear Zachary is best for older teens who can withstand the darkest of motives, the most painful of losses, and the most unforgivable of legal negligence. The subject matter in Dear Zachary is disturbing enough -- Bagby's family, friends, and former colleagues suffer terribly over his murder, to say nothing of the criminal justice system's dreadful negligence in naming and punishing his killer. But the film's style doesn't do viewers any favors. Every emotional moment is played for maximum effect, with repeated phrases, anguished tears, profanity, and pictures of Bagby as a child and young man often intercut with the sound of loud gunshots, disturbing music, and angles that give viewers the sense he's being murdered again and again on-screen.
Suspenseful plot twists in the real-life case make the emotional unease even more intense: Turner is discovered to be pregnant with Bagby's son, and now the grandparents (whose fortitude is one of the brightest spots in this tragic tale) must not only fight for custody and visitation rights but also negotiate and spend time with their son's alleged killer to be in Zachary's life. And then there's the twist that's darker and sadder than everything that comes before it, to the extent that it makes the rest of the film look like an episode of Law and Order.
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