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Dear Zoe (Film Review)

3 min read

After being one of the highlights of the latest season of Stranger Things, and in fact, all of Stranger Things, and after all of that running up the hill, it's nice to see (AKA Max) in a leading role. But beyond Sadie Sink as an admirable lead, is severely lacking in just about everything else.

Based on Philip Beard's best-selling novel of the same name, Dear Zoe follows 16-year-old Tess (Sink) after the loss of her younger sister on September 11th 2001. That day changed the world forever, but it changed even more for Tess and her family. Tess decides to run away from home and from her mum and her partner to move in with her biological father Nick (), a loveable slacker from the wrong side of the tracks, despite her mother's wishes.

The opening scene of the film throws you right into it with Sink's Tess talking about why Zoe died on 9/11 and how it was because of her. The opening immediately hits you emotionally setting Dear Zoe up to be a film full of emotion and heart, but this very quickly dissipates as the film goes on.

Grief-stricken and guilt-ridden after what happened to her sister on 9/11, Tess is grappling with this great loss but also navigating life as a teen girl. Dear Zoe is a film mixed with a 9/11 tragedy that somehow never really manages to hit the mark on anything after the opening scene.

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Whilst living with her dad, Tess also meets Jimmy (), the edgy delinquent and starts forming a bond with him. The film tries to juggle too many different elements, from Tess's loss of Zoe to her relationship with both her mum and her dad, as well as navigating teen love and friendships and a job and it sticks the landing on absolutely none of these.

It all feels like a jumble of emotions as it jumps from her dad to Jimmy to her mum with little connecting it all. And maybe the filmmakers were trying to replicate the mess of emotions that Tess, and all teenagers feel, but it doesn't work at all. It's trying to do too much and as a result, as a viewer, we feel no real emotion from anything that's happening in the film.

There's just not enough depth the any of the characters, especially Tess. Yes, she's going through a lot in the film, and Sink once again proves herself as an incredible young actor that's sure to have a bright future ahead of her, but the script gives us absolutely no reason to feel anything towards her character or towards any of the characters in the film.

Dear Zoe dials the up all the way to eleven and the end result is an over-dramatic mess of a coming-of-age drama, that despite having numerous avenues of interesting grief and relationships to explore, it does nothing with any of them. Sadie Sink is always good to watch but not even she can save the poor writing and the messy narratives in Dear Zoe.

Dear Zoe releases on UK digital platforms 7 November 2022