Debuting in theaters and on demand on November 11 2022, Dylan & Zoey is an accompished real-world drama from indie stable Gravitas Ventures; for once, we’re not looking at some kind of genre hybrid, but at a talky adult drama that tackles sexual issues in an involving, uncompromising way. The press -notes suggest this film is based on the true-life experiences of debut director Matt Sauter, who has adapted Edward Albee and Neil LaBute on stage, both good reference points for his work here. Dylan & Zoey is a well-acted two hander that allows its central pairing to shine; while trigger warnings should be attached in terms of the subject matter covered, it’s a firm recommend to anyone seeking cinema that aims to say something genuine about the modern world.
Currently making waves in The Boys, Claudia Doumit plays Zoey, a struggling journalist who is heading to LA for a bachelorette party which she’s got little enthusiasm for. Zoey decided to look up her old friend Dylan (Blake Scott Lewis), a close bestie from childhood, but now somewhat estranged. He accepts her offer and the two of them head out to a club to enjoy some live music, but at every turn, issues from both past and present come to the fore. Can Zoey and Dylan solve their ongoing problems and rekindle their friendship in a meaningful way?
So the stakes are small and personal, but Sauter, co-writing with Lewis, makes sure that Dylan and Zoey come over as intelligent, articulate people. Both have life experience that makes them sound like battle-hardened veterans, belittling their own trauma but hiding hurt, and consequently finding it hard to heal and move on. Dylan talks freely about how he was molested as a child, and is clearly wrestling with his own sexuality as a consequence. Zoey is sympathetic, she’s been raped but refuses to be a victim, and a shared sense of empathy only gets them so far. ‘The person that you love is the person that you can sh*t on’ Zoey offers with a caustic sense of self –deprecating humour; both are bitter, but it’s also notable that when they actually fight, the length of their separation is one of the first things they call each other out on.
With a couple of musical interludes over some 80 minutes of intense conversation, Dylan & Zoey feels at times like an actors workshop, but that’s no bad thing when the performers strike sparks like Lewis and Doumit. Lewis offers a nuanced, layered picture of a man digging deep to confront his own formative issue, while Doumit is vibrant, vulnerable and street-tough as a character who has dealt with their own sexual experiences in a short-term, practical way that has potential to unravel. Dylan & Zoey works against the grain of most films; it’s a tiny, sensitive story of two friends trying to help each other and themselves, a minor gem that’s a balm for those seeking intelligent, modern characters. And yes, a Before Sunrise-style trilogy would be welcome in this case; Lewis and Doumit inhabit their characters in such an authentic way that, for once, further development would be welcome.
Dylan & Zoey is in Theaters + On Demand 11/11. Thanks to Gravitas Ventures for access.