The documentary Adrienne, debuting on HBO on Wednesday, December 1 (8:00 -9:40 p.m. ET/PT) and directed by Andy Ostroy, the late Adrienne Shelly’s husband, is a celebration of the life and work of the actor, filmmaker, wife and mother and a personal exploration of grief. Shelly starred in over twenty films including Hal Hartley’s indie classics “The Unbelievable Truth” and “Trust.” Known for her early ingenue roles, Shelly strove to tell her own female-centric stories and wrote and directed several movies including the Sundance Film Festival hit, “Waitress.”
Yet, Shelly would not live to see the film’s release, hear the critical acclaim, nor experience the smash Broadway musical based on her work. She was murdered in late 2006, leaving behind her devastated husband and two-year-old daughter Sophie. Through candid conversations with family, friends and colleagues, ADRIENNE takes viewers on Ostroy’s poignant journey to share Adrienne’s life story and honor her legacy, while giving a rare window into how a family navigates unfathomable tragedy. Adrienne will debut on HBO and be available to stream on HBO Max.
Shaped through Ostroy’s intimate narrative, home video and archival footage, and anecdotal interviews from those who knew and loved her, Adrienne is a powerful emotional look at Shelly’s life, detailing her determination to create art, her aspirations to uplift others, the beautiful family she left behind and ultimately the career success she always dreamed of. With remarkable candor, Ostroy and his now 17-year-old daughter address the void in their lives and the constant struggle to find closure after Shelly’s senseless death. Sophie’s childhood conversations with her father are represented visually by poetic animations which capture the extent of the loss of a mother to a child.
The film also features actors Paul Rudd, Keri Russell, Cheryl Hines, Nathan Fillion, Lew Temple, Jessie Mueller and Jeremy Sisto recalling their personal experiences with Shelly and attesting to her talents. Other participants include director Hal Hartley; singer/composer Sara Bareilles; retired NYC homicide detective Irma Rivera-Duffy; forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Baden; family members and friends.
While celebrating Shelly’s life, the film is also an exploration into her death. At first ruled a suicide, Ostroy knew there was no way his wife would take her own life. His efforts to pressure the police and to keep the story in the New York media led to a continued investigation and arrest of her killer. As Adrienne flashes back in time to track Shelly’s early life, her career, and personal milestones, Ostroy’s journey to grapple with her death and the man responsible is palpable and ongoing.
Adrienne explores the far-reaching effects of a devastating tragedy on one family and her community. It also stands as an illuminating tribute to Shelly’s bright life and enduring achievements. With this film, Ostroy creates a beautiful memoir to his wife. Shelly’s legacy includes The Adrienne Shelly Foundation, created by Ostroy, which has awarded over 100 production grants to women filmmakers including 2021’s Best Director Academy Award-winner Chloe Zhao.
Watch the official trailer for Adrienne.