Sadie Sink in Dear Zoe

Film Review – Dear Zoe (2022)

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Following from ‘Stranger ThingsSeason 4, it appears that several of the female leads have indulged in leading roles in films. Sadie Sink is without a doubt one of them and the race of film stardom are with rivals; yes, rivals such as Maya Hawke’s ‘Do Revenge,’ Priyah Ferguson’s ‘The Curse of Bridge Hollow’ and of course, Millie Bobby Brown’s ‘Enola Holmes 2.’ The fact that these films are all Netflix produced, it appears that Sadie Sink will get her fair share of recognition when ‘Dear Zoe’ is released a few days after the release of ‘Enola Holmes 2.’ These actresses are up and come but when ‘The Whale’ is released this will catapult Sadie Sink into an Oscar worthy league, thus giving her a chance to surpass her ‘Stranger Things’ colleagues. Penultimately from the much anticipated ‘The Whale,’ ‘Dear Zoe’ must be reviewed. The result is that Sadie Sink can carry a leading role with ease and is a true stand out for a coming-of-age teen drama.

Dear Zoe’ is an adaptation of a young adult novel by Philip Beard and is the second feature film to have been made by Gren Wells who brings a vigorous approach to the premise of loss, love and heartbreak. The opening scenes make the most of the charisma that Sadie Sink retains on screen and the whole film gains immensely from her presence. At the outset we hear Sadie’s voice in the character of Tess DeNunzio, a teenager living in Pittsburgh: she is sharing with us the letter she would like to be able to write to her younger sister, Zoe, who died in an accident on the day of the 9/11 attack. We may only learn the full details of what happened later as the film unravels, but it is evident from the start that Tess feels accountable and that she is having to cope with this burden of guilt at the age of sixteen. Although Sink is twenty now, her acting age range from sixteen to twenty-five is truly her eclectic selling point.

As adapted by Mark Lhormer and Melissa Martin, ‘Dear Zoe’ is certainly an absorbing piece of work and not only for the young adults who may be its prime audience, but older generations such as parents will appeal to as the challenging role of parenthood is a pivotal premise. Much of it is concerned with a potential romance that occurs when Tess, whose parents are divorced, runs off to spend time with her dad, Nick (Theo Rossi), rather than with her mother, Elly (Jessica Capshaw), and her stepfather (Justin Bartha). It is then that Tess encounters dad’s neighbour Jimmy Freeze (Kweku Collins) who loves loud rap music and has Rastafarian locks. Jimmy is immediately declared by her father to be someone whom she should avoid. She is clearly fascinated but sensibly cautious too and, as the film proceeds, we discover just where this relationship is leading her while also being invited to evaluate if her preference for her father over her mother is as warranted as it first appears. The rated R theme is due to the marijuana use by Jimmy as well as Tess’ father. When she is enticed to use with Jimmy, the viewer may become bewildered if she should pander with a bad boy. What is the point of all of this is the question? Are we approving of their relationship or should we allow them to take dark paths of marijuana usage.

By focusing much of the time on these issues rather than on the lasting impact of Zoe’s death, the film becomes a more predictable teenage tale than might have been expected and it also encourages Gren Wells to adopt a less realistic tone by incorporating soundtrack songs, some of which reflect directly on the narrative. There are other weaknesses in the writing too: the mother’s role really needed to be fleshed out much more. Both Theo Rossi and Kweku Collins have the time to make useful contributions that are quite good enough to render ‘Dear Zoe’ highly watchable even if not memorable. But the one player able to convert it into a special experience is Sadie Sink who totally excels the film’s limitations. What she offers is not only the glow of star quality but something else that does not always go hand-in-hand with that, namely the sense that her acting ability is special too. ‘Dear Zoe’ tries to be a tearjerker but cannot meet up to the standard of classic coming of age tear jerkers such as ‘The Fault in our Stars’ or ‘The Notebook.’ ‘Dear Zoe’ is a one-time watch movie, and you would feel entertained for the moment. Sadie Sink has the greatest potential to flourish further, so let’s watch the space for ‘The Whale’ as she plays Brendan Fraser’s daughter.

★★★


Drama | USA, 2022 | 15 | Digital HD | 7th November 2022 (UK) | Reel 2 Reel Films | Dir.Gren Wells | Sadie Sink, Theo Rossi, Jessica Capshaw, Justin Bartha, Kweku Collins, Vivien Lyra Blair | Buy/Rent

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