Movie review: Dylan and Zoey tackle a sensitive subject in a smart way

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Initially, we cannot deny it, Dylan and Zoey adheres to certain rules that the “indie film playbook” so often lays out for new filmmakers to navigate. This is in no way a criticism of Matt Skip, simply an observation that the simplistic settings, characters rich in dialogue and their societal opinions, and the “me against the world” mentality are undoubtedly familiar. But when the film reveals why such a temper is evident, not to mention introducing its titular Zoey, something else entirely takes over.

Heavy themes quickly take shape in Sauter’s screenplay when he brings together Dylan (co-screenwriter Blake Scott Lewis), a 28-year-old LA resident and virgin, and Zoey (Claudia Doumitbest known from amazon The boys), a more sexually experienced Denver native, who reunite after many years and, fairly quickly, become lyrical about their religious and amorous views in a series of heated conversations that don’t quite reach the emotional depth to which the film eventually devotes itself.

In what could potentially trigger some viewers, Dylan and Zoey soon discuss their traumatic past and the key experiences that shaped them in the present. Sexual assault is central to the film, and while Sauter and Lewis’ storyline never sheds light on such brutality, the defense mechanism of addressing their trauma with bursts of humor allows the film to so that it is acceptable to discuss it. The film manages to attack its situations with shades of gray.

While the conversations oscillate between awkward and heartbreaking information, Lewis and Doumit’s performances are uniformly spot-on. The two create characters that feel fully lived in (assisted by their actual friendship) and not once do they let loose an emotional beat that doesn’t feel organic; the film’s defining scene mostly belonging to Doumit as she descends into her past, slowly breaking away with a monologue that speaks to her strength as an actress and Sauter’s honest direction.

A small film that is silent only in its structure, Dylan and Zoey offers a sensitive story and intelligent, modern characters who tackle sexual issues in an involved and uncompromising way. As difficult as the film is in terms of content, it has a lot to say about our culture.

FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Dylan and Zoey is screening in North American theaters and available on demand from November 11, 2022. An Australian release is yet to be determined.

Pierre Gray

Film critic with a fondness for Dwayne Johnson, Jason Momoa, Michelle Pfeiffer and horror films, harboring a desire to be a face of entertainment news.