Review: Matt Sauter’s ‘Dylan & Zoey’

Dylan & Zoey Review - 2022 Matt Sauter Movie Film

Vague Visages’ Dylan & Zoey review contains minor plot spoilers. Matt Sauter’s 2022 movie features Blake Scott Lewis and Claudia Doumit. Check out the VV home page for more film reviews, along with cast/character summaries, streaming guides and complete soundtrack song listings.


Indie dramas about unlucky-in-love millenials in Los Angeles often work from the same playbook. Many filmmakers emulate the conversational style of Richard Linklater productions through chatty characters who complain about societal norms but offer no solutions, while other directors incorporate thin commentaries about social media trends. Matt Sauter’s Dylan & Zoey initially feels like the same ol’ thing, at least until the lead actress takes over the film.

Dylan & Zoey stars Blake Scott Lewis — who co-wrote the screenplay with Sauter — as Dylan, a 28-year-old L.A. virgin who reunites with a sexually experienced Denver native named Zoey (Claudia Doumit from Amazon’s The Boys). The protagonists exchange ideas about religion and dating before starting a deeper conversation about past experiences. Dylan muses about his sexuality while discussing pornography and a past sexual assault; Zoey recalls being raped by two men, and finds humor in her story by explaining that she was initially attracted to her attackers. Sauter and his co-writer plant various themes in the first act, and then allow them to grow through subversive situational dramedy.

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Dylan & Zoey Review - 2022 Matt Sauter Movie Film

Like the 2022 Apple movie Causeway, Dylan & Zoey succeeds with its opposites attract premise. In both films, the female protagonist doesn’t intend to hook up with her male counterpart, yet it’s still a possibility given the characters’ unresolved psychological issues. As for Zoey, she takes a gentle approach while questioning Dylan about his problems. She listens carefully and offers a solution that would theoretically be mutually beneficial. It’s this grey area where Lewis’ writing shines (in collaboration with his director) and Doumit digs deep as a performer. Zoey’s easy-going persona and transparency about her love life will seemingly guide Dylan to an epiphany, but she must first reckon with a dark memory. Aesthetically, Dylan & Zoey is rather quiet for the first hour, with all its static shots and a dark color palette, but everything changes during a heavy-duty monologue, one that complements a significant shift in the film’s visual design.

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Dylan & Zoey Review - 2022 Matt Sauter Movie Film

In a perfect world, Doumit would earn an Independent Spirit Award for her work in Dylan & Zoey. As the female protagonist descends into the past, the character framing and mise-en-scène hints at a fractured mind without incorporating the standard mirror reflection shot, a la “Who am I?” The filmmakers spotlight Doumit’s beauty and range in a moment when her character feels completely helpless. And Sauter just keeps the camera on his female lead as she channels emotions that can’t be easily described. How does one effectively communicate a personal Hell? Acting coaches should take a look at Dylan & Zoey’s bathroom monologue scene. It’s so powerful that Lewis’ stunned reaction could indeed be authentic. This is the type of cinema that I’m always looking for.

Q.V. Hough (@QVHough) is Vague Visages’ founding editor.

Dylan & Zoey released in theaters and SVOD on November 11, 2022.

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