Director Amy Glazer’s third feature film, Kepler’s Dream, has some generic moments of dialogue amidst an over-dramatized premise that somehow still manages to hit home with the family themes it is ultimately going for. There are some good performances, and one particularly memorable one that makes the mediocre plot in an hour-and-a-half runtime feel acceptable. While there are a few moments that drag, the film manages to elicit that Hallmark-esque emotional moment while ultimately tying together in a way that doesn’t feel entirely earned.
Kepler’s Dream managed to hit some emotional notes while being mildly entertaining
Ella (Isabella Blake-Thomas) is sent to stay with her eccentric grandmother, Violet von Stern (Holland Taylor), when her mother, Amy (Kelly Lynch), becomes too sick and her father, Walt (Sean Patrick Flannery), is distant and unavailable. The film attempts to mix a fish-out-of-water story with a mystery when a valuable book, Kepler’s Dream, is stolen from Violet’s library. This is served alongside a massive amount of family drama; mom has cancer. Dad is distant and avoids being the father figure that Ella so desperately wants. Grandma is strict and cold, which could very well be the reason dad is the way he is. Ella is young and hopeful, but aware of the gravity of her situation, and is struggling to stay afloat amongst all the crazy adult shenanigans.
As you can probably tell, the plot is reminiscent of a soap opera at times, and there are a few moments where the dialogue treads into that territory. However, Isabella Blake-Thomas and Holland Taylor both deliver strong performances. Blake-Thomas has a future in acting and just needs a little fine-tuning to really make her performances a little more believable and sounding less like line-readings. Taylor has a long career and really gets to have some of the more dynamic moments and arcs in this film. Though not all of those moments are clearly earned in the story, Taylor’s performance forces the audience to accept her change as truth, as her nuanced performance hints towards the character’s change. The bigger billed names don’t get a whole lot to do in the movie, but Flanery and Lynch deliver when they’re on screen.
Kepler’s Dream is obviously a major component of this film. It is the centerpiece of Violet’s collection, and Ella is told to “ask to see it” by her mother before leaving to Violet’s house. The book causes conflict early when Ella touches it without gloves and further wedges the divide between Violet and Ella as a result. Then the book goes missing, and the odd mystery subplot comes into play. However, it’s not as heavy-handed a mystery as it could have been, but it does lead to the final family moment that despite – feeling slightly unearned – had this critic crying. Family dramas apparently are my kryptonite when it comes to the crying category.
Ultimately, Kepler’s Dream isn’t a movie you need to rush out and watch. There is some competent filmmaking, solid production values, and better than average performances. The story does pay off in a way that made me slightly frustrated with the movie, as cancer mom and child are an equation that results in blubbering for many. Kepler’s Dream earns the Not a Total Waste of Time rating.