Kepler’s Dream Review
Kepler’s Dream is a family adventure about an 11-year-old girl who searches for a missing rare book from her grandmother’s library and tries to understand why her family is fractured the way it is.
The young adult book to film adaptation has, for a while now, been mostly focused on older teens wrapped up in post apocalyptic disasters and such, with they often being the saviors of mankind. While others sneak in under their long shadows, including heartbreakers like The Fault in Our Stars, it seems increasingly difficult to find quality movies for pre-teen children that aren’t about superheroes and space wars. So it was rather refreshing to sit through Amy Glazer‘s latest, Kepler’s Dream, an intelligent, gentle and sincere family film that is all about its relationships instead of action.
Ella (Isabella Blake-Thomas) is a curious and clever 11-year-old girl from the city, whose mother Amy (Kelly Lynch) is battling Leukemia. They are close, with Ella chopping off her long locks as a sign of solidarity. However, Amy needs the summer to undergo an experimental stem cell procedure in another state so, after her father (Sean Patrick Flanery) is too busy to take Ella, she is sent to visit her reclusive grandmother Violet von Stern (Holland Taylor) on a New Mexico ranch so remote she needs to take a small plane to get there. They’ve never met before, and it’s an awkward start to be sure, as Violent is rather proper, demanding much of the girl, while there is no WiFi and not much to do. She does have an extensive library though, including a rare (only two in the world) book that draws Ella’s interest called Kepler’s Dream. When it gets stolen though, kindly ranch hand Miguel (Steven Michael Quezada), whose daughter befriends Ella, is accused and so she sets out to find the real thief, discovering much along the way.
The gaps that divide the young and the old have long been fodder for conflict in movies, and Glazer doesn’t stray too far from the path, though that’s not to say she doesn’t make it work. This is a film (based on the best selling YA book of the same name by Juliet Bell) made exclusively for a young audience and as such, paints in broad imagery that should be easy to follow for kids while still challenging enough to keep it more than interesting. Ella is the heart of the story, and is, fortunately, while very smart, not made to be excessively so, being a very convincing girl of her age who tries to absorb and process the numerous changes in her life. Adults too are not dolts in the story, as is often the case in movies such as this, instead equally authentic. It’s played simply, sure, for youngsters, but not insultingly so, delving into a few serious issues, such as communication, trust, abandonment, loss, and more, all very effectively. Mixing a bit of a Nancy Drew mystery with a genuine emotional family drama, Kepler’s Dream has lots for its target audience to think about, even as their parents will see things coming well in advance.
In an age when most movies are trying to push younger people into a corner with countless films suggesting only a movie with kids hooked on texting and sassy attitudes are worth identifying with, Kepler’s Dream, like a few others, make a case for something different. Blake-Thomas is a charming young talent with an infectious warmth and natural presence that makes her fun to watch. Taylor, who’s been steadily working in film and TV since the 60s, is terrific as well, as is the rest of the cast who help greatly to ground the story. Smart and deeply respectful of its audience, this is an easy recommendation for the whole family. Besides, any children’s film that quotes Carl Sagan is already leagues ahead of most.
Kepler’s Dream releases December 1st.
Kepler’s Dream Review
Movie description: Kepler's Dream is a family adventure about an 11-year-old girl who searches for a missing rare book from her grandmother's library and tries to understand why her family is fractured the way it is.
Director(s): Amy Glazer
Actor(s): Isabella Blake-Thomas, Holland Taylor, Sean Patrick Flanery, Kelly Lynch, Kelly Hu