My Dead Friend Zoe

My Dead Friend Zoe
My Dead Friend Zoe
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In the compassionate feature My Dead Friend Zoe by Kyle Hausmann-Stokes, everyone has experienced a loss. Merit (Sonequa Martin-Green), a highly-strung Afghanistan veteran is struck down by the death of her best friend during their tour in combat. Dr. Cole (Morgan Freeman), become very sad as he witnesses his own life missing something since he is in charge of helping merit through this court-ordered therapy sessions. Dale’s wife and his memory are the battles he had to face after losing his spouse.

These challenges are examined by Hausmann-Stokes throughout this intimate debut. The movie premiered at SXSW and features among its producers Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, who happens to be Taylor Swift’s boyfriend. It is an honest attempt to bring complex narratives about soldiers back from war to film and it focuses mostly on Merit until she finds herself anew within civilian life after the death of her close friend Zoe (Natalie Morales) Haunted by her vituperative sidekick, as well as memories from Afghanistan, Merit barely hangs on.

There is a tenderness that pervades the characters in My Dead Friend Zoe. Prior to becoming a full-time filmmaker, Hausmann-Stokes served for five years as an army paratrooper in Iraq; these fictional veterans’ lives have been textured with his personal experiences as well. Authoring alongside AJ Bermudez, Hausmann-Stokes lets us see how these figures re-enter society after years of soldiering; but rather than exploring narrative elements around those lives, there seems far too much concern over mere character building which does not make any sense given that they were supposedto be built up in such a way so that they could eventually get rid of their military uniforms without feeling like something was being taken away from them or lost forever.A young woman who suffers from PTSD while taking care of her elderly grandfather and providing him with companionship forms the core of the film My Dead Friend Zoe, but it is oddly intransigent and does not become mellow enough to be involved or moved by.

My Dead Friend Zoe often feels like a lengthy public service announcement. There are frequent sudden scene transitions that do not allow moments to breathe much. This turns the movie into an advertisement that runs at a fast pace instead of being as slow as a trusting friendship.

The opening scene flashes us back to glimpses from Merit and Zoe’s relationship. The year is 2016 and they are somewhere in the arid desert of Afghanistan. In an effort to imitate Rihanna’s tones (singing on iPod), they attempt harmonizing with “Umbrella”. The golden-lit scene (cinematography by Matt Sakatani Roe) radiates natural chemistry between Martin-Green and Morales; their acting makes friendship seem simple.

Later we learn that Zoe is dead while Merit lives in Portland, Oregon where she shares her life with the ghost of her friend. Group therapy sessions are ordered for this Afghan war veteran but she never discloses her story. For instance, Hausmann-Stokes indulges in some sensationalism regarding how Zoe died, just so he could demonstrate how PTSD affects one’s body and mind. She has been stuck within these few places time after time due to something and as such should there have been other memories more informative for her character other than these?

Dr. Cole accuses Merit of being unwilling to participate and warns that the old soldier cannot sign the court papers if she does not involve herself in sessions somehow. Those facts were quickly addressed and never visited again, which was also a bad habit of Hausmann-Stokes’ feature film with other plot points too. But My Dead Friend Zoe is emphatic at heart but its narrative will never allow audiences see this. So much to tackle for instance —Merits relationship with Zoe, the young veteran’s new boyfriend (Utkarsh Ambudkar), her interaction with her grandfather and Dr. Cole’s own vaguely suggested demons.

The story becomes increasingly stilted as it jumps from one thread to another, making meanspirited omissions along the way so that each part of the plot gets its share. While moments like these are poignant (her grandfather indicating that both served in wars or their summer vacations at their lake house) there are times when it seems far too scattered.

But strong performances from a stacked cast help smooth over some of the bumps. Martin-Green and Morales are especially effective here—easily capturing the lightness of comedy inherent in budding friendship while convincingly portraying despair that accompanies love lost. It is worth mentioning that Harris also excels despite underdeveloped character by emphasizing on physicality in his acting approach because he must play it “big” on stage.

In fact, as said before suffering dementia, Dale experiences parallel realities: one where his wife is alive still erasing battle scars and another where he refuses care even though limited by an aging body; Both are true at once.

Dale, Merit and Zoe’s ghost remind viewers after they finish watching this movie that veterans rely more heavily on past fears to grapple with than possible future unknowns due to national betrayal in war time.

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