Writer-director D. Mitry’s My True Fairytale is about Angie Goodwin (Emma Kennedy), a 17-year old who wakes up days after a car accident and finds herself with superpowers. To the rest of the world, she’s a missing person whose body was never recovered from the accident; to Angie, she’s finally living her childhood dream and sets out to use her ability to help family and friends overcome their parent-child conflicts.

Mitry is a skilled director with a good eye for setting up a scene and capturing his actors’ performances, but the script is too sprawling and on-the-nose to make the movie engaging. A subplot involving the search for Angie’s body plays out alongside the small dramas between her surviving friends, their parents and her grieving family. Each of these build — or shamble — toward heartwarming messages about how important love is and how it can heal familial strife. There are many lives Angie sets out to save, and the number of people she touched directly or indirectly is ultimately the purpose of Mitry’s story. Unfortunately, having a clear (and deeply empathetic) purpose does not necessarily improve the experience of watching a movie that is difficult to follow.

My True Fairytale is more than just a movie to Mitry. It’s a rumination on the real-life passing of his daughter, Alyssa Gelfand, from a car accident at age 17. In interviews about the film, Mitry describes this as a collaboration between the two of them. Her friends helped make the film, too, which is knowledge that contextualizes the numerous subplots. Knowing about the true tragedy, the involvement of Alyssa’s friends and how making the film helped its writer and director express his experience with grief, loss and healing makes My True Fairytale really sing.

However, without knowing that personal story, the movie would just feel like a Lifetime film, building up to a sweet lesson repeated across the multiple stories that feel aimless and disconnected for most of the story. A number of the characters are outright unlikable, with insubstantial subplots that distract from the core of Angie’s work on Earth. For an 80-minute movie, it feels decidedly unfocused, even when everything is brought together for the grand finale. The emotional weight of the story comes from knowing the truth at the heart of Mitry’s tale.

My True Fairytale is heartfelt and truthful but unfortunately a little too difficult to engage with as a piece of pure fiction. It’s recommended as a personal meditation on grief; the last moments produced some tears and a great amount of empathy imagining what it meant to Mitry to write and film. Just don’t approach it blind.