Zelly and Me

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Zelly and Me
Directed by Tina Rathborne
Produced by Tina Rathborne
Written by Tina Rathborne
Music by Pino Donaggio
Cinematography Mikael Salomon
Edited by Cindy Kaplan Rooney
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release date
  • April 15, 1988 (1988-04-15) (United States)
Running time
87 minutes

Zelly and Me is a 1988 American drama film written, directed and produced by Tina Rathborne. The film stars Isabella Rossellini, Glynis Johns and Alexandra Johnes, and features film-maker David Lynch in a minor role.

Released on April 15, 1988, Zelly and Me has received mixed reviews, citing its unsteady tone and a narrative which one reviewer felt would be more suited to a novel than a film.


After her parents died in an airplane crash, Phoebe lived with her grandmother Co-Co, and a nanny, Zelly. Co-Co and Zelly soon find themselves competing for the child's affections, leading to Phoebe growing isolated when Co-Co jealously fires all of her staff.



Zelly and Me was the first film by writer and director Tina Rathborne.[1] The film was greenlit by David Puttnam during his tenure as head of Columbia Pictures, and was based on Rathbourne's own childhood.[2] Rathborne cast Rossellini's real-life partner David Lynch in a small role in the film, as Rossellini's character's lover.[3] As a result, Lynch would later offer Rathborne the opportunity to direct for his 1990 television series Twin Peaks.[3] Lynch agreed to take part in the film at Rossellini's behest, in order to overcome his fear of acting.[4]

Release and reception

It's heartfelt, and marked by some devoted work, but [...] Rathborne hasn't yet learned how to let the really powerful stuff boil up implicitly from beneath the surface. Here, everything is on the surface, rather flatfootedly and awkwardly laid out, with clunky establishing speeches and pointers that deflate whatever mystery and tension lies in the material.

The Boston Globe's Jay Carr[2]

Zelly and Me was released on April 15, 1988.[5] The film had previously been screened as part of the 1988 Sundance Film Festival, on January 23.[6]

A review for Film4 has described Zelly and Me as unsure of its own narrative and tone, describing it as "a little uneven, [but] nevertheless well worth a look".[7] Writing for AllRovi, Iotis Erlewine rated the film two-and-a-half stars out of five.[5] Vincent Canby, writing for The New York Times, felt that the film did not work in cinematic terms, and that the story would have been better served as a novel. Canby also found himself unsure of how eccentric the film was intended to be, particularly finding that Lynch and Rossellini seemed "creepy", whether they "intended to be or not".[1]

The film's review at the 1988 Sundance Film Festival described it as a "deeply moving and beautifully acted portrait of childhood pain", adding that Lynch's role was played "with a wholesomeness that belies expectations".[6] Writing for The Boston Globe, Jay Carr felt that the film was clumsily written and lacking in subtlety. However, he felt that the acting throughout the cast was good, finding Rossellini, Johnes and Joe Morton to have performed well. Carr felt that the standout performance was by Lynch, describing him as "never anything but soft and gentlemanly on the surface, but there's always something scary about him".[2]


  1. ^ a b Canby, Vincent (April 15, 1988). "Review/Film; Tangled Childhood in 'Zelly and Me'". The New York Times. Retrieved August 30, 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c Carr, Jay (June 24, 1988). "'Zelly and Me: A Sorry Shortage of Surprises". The Boston Globe. Retrieved August 30, 2012.  (subscription required)
  3. ^ a b Rathborne, 00:11–00:15
  4. ^ Barney 2009, pp. 88–89.
  5. ^ a b Erlewine, Iotis. "Zelly and Me – Cast, Reviews, Summary, and Awards". AllMovie. AllRovi. Retrieved August 30, 2012. 
  6. ^ a b "Zelly and Me | Archives". Sundance Film Festival. Retrieved August 30, 2012. 
  7. ^ "Zelly and Me (1988) – Film Review". Film4. Retrieved August 30, 2012. 


External links

  • Zelly and Me on IMDb
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