Cinematic Releases: Kepler’s Dream (2017) - Reviewed

“Life is complicated.” I’ve heard this far too many times, both in films and in real life. As we get older, and events happen, our interests and needs diverge, sometimes separating us from the best parts of us. If this sounds as sappy as it reads, it’s because Amy Glazer’s Kepler’s Dream resonated with me. 

Young Ella (Isabella Blake – Thomas) understands sacrifice. Her mom, Amy (Kelly Lynch) has Leukemia and needs a full stem cell blood transfusion. In the opening moments of the film, and in solidarity with her mom, she cuts her hair. Even if she weren’t young, you could tell that the early transformation was a difficult decision. Trying to reconnect with her father, Walt (Sean Patrick Flannery), who has gone off the grid with his fishing expedition company, requires ingenuity, ultimately meeting with failure. 

To ensure she is taken care of, Walt sends Ella to his mother, Violet (Holland Taylor), whose home sits among the upper desert vistas of New Mexico. Violet is the keeper of a rare, first-edition copy of “Kepler’s Dream,” a key to finding oneself. Violet is very strict, demanding a prim and proper way of discourse. The hired help, Miguel (Steven Michael Quezada) and his daughter, Rosie (Esperanza Fermin) live in a trailer on the far end of Violet’s compound. Miguel has been a fixture in Violet’s life and in what starts out as a tenuous teenaged friendship, Rosie and Ella eventually get on each other’s wavelength. 

In a less-defined relationship, is Abercrombie (David Hunt) who pushes Violet to talk about the financial aspects of her treasure, while Jackson (Stafford Douglas) is the young technical help, who relates to Ella in modern, technical ways as he helps Violet to catalog her extensive library. When “Kepler’s Dream” ends up being stolen, fingers point all around the compound, resulting in Ella becoming a detective. Ella is much smarter than your average eleven year-old. At least, she was smarter than when I was eleven. The book’s return ensures a happy, classic Hollywood-style ending. 

The trouble with the script by Sylvia Brownrigg, Sedge Thomson, Ann Cummins, Ms. Glazer and Vijay Rajan is that the underutilized characters’ motives become lost in the true meaning of the film. It’s a minor quibble, but the narrative shift raises unnecessary distractions that prolong the eventual resolution, despite Ella being given more to do in the film as a character. 

It was refreshing to see Ms. Taylor lending her many years of experience to this production. She and Mr. Flannery squared off quite effectively as mother and son without detracting from Ms. Blake-Thomas’s performance. Nancy Schreiber’s cinematography is exceptional. 

Despite minor narrative quibbles, Ms. Glazer’s film does its job admirably and reminds us to cherish the most important aspects of life – family. 

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-Ben Cahlamer