A young girl goes on a emotional roller coaster that becomes a catalyst for her family coming to terms in this well-made family drama.
Having lived in the city all her life, Ella McKenzie has been through a lot. Her parents have divorced, and she has been estranged from her father, who does fishing excursions. When her mother is diagnosed with leukemia, she must be taken out of state for stem cell research. Ella is forced to stay with her paternal grandmother, Violet Von Stern, whom Ella has never met. Things don’t go as planned the first few days due to Violet’s strict rules and harsh manners.
Ella does find some friends in ranch hand Miguel and his daughter Rosie. The bond between Ella and Violet slowly begins to develop over their love of astronomy, with Violet’s prized possession being a rare first edition of Johannes Kepler’s Somnium. When the book is found to be missing, Miguel is the prime suspect, but Ella believes the culprit to be Violet’s guest and fellow book collector, Christopher Abercromie, and his visiting nephew Jackson. As Ella digs deep into the mystery, her father, who has been away from the family home, returns. With Ella on the hunt for the rare book, some secrets are revealed, and that may result in something much needed for this family.
Based on the novel by Juliet Bell, this is a tale that meshes the fish out of water story with a mystery that all results in something that may look like it comes out of a Hallmark movie, but done with a realistic sense that both breaks and keeps the family traditional film alive. The themes of meeting for the first time, estrangement, and the near loss of a loved one seems a bit much. However, it all smooths out in its running time making it bearable.
Isabella Blake-Thomas brings a sense of realism in the central role of Ella, who has endured so much, but is so loyal to her mother that her opening scene involves her cutting her hair as a donation for her mother, played by Kelly Lynch. Lynch doesn’t get much screen time as her character of Amy spends most of the film recovering in a hospital bed from leukemia. Sean Patrick Flanery makes the most of his screen time as the estranged Walt, whose fishing excursions and family secrets make him somewhat of an outcast to both his mother and his daughter. Holland Taylor is a delight to watch as the stern Violet, whom Ella nicknames “G.M.”, not for grandmother, but “general major”. The chemistry between Taylor and Blake-Thomas is a vital part of the film’s story.
Steven Michael Quezada’s Miguel and Esperanza Fermin’s Rosie bring a sense of comfort to Ella, as it seems like they are the only ones she can trust throughout this journey. Even David Hunt’s Abercromie seems to have that shady side to him as he only seems to care about monetary value rather than sentimental value, which is in the case of Violet and Kepler’s Somnium. What helps drive the film overall is that when it looks crystal clear who took the Somnium, some unexpected twists and turns not only reveal the theft itself, but the reasoning behind the theft will make jaws drop.
All in all, Kepler’s Dream may seem like a lot going into one film. However, both smooth scriptwriting and some great performances, notably from Isabella Blake-Thomas and Holland Taylor, make this an ultimately heartwarming drama.
WFG RATING: B+
Leomark Studios present a Kepler’s Dream Etc. Production. Director: Amy Glazer. Producer: Sedge Thomson. Writers: Sylvia Browning, Sedge Thomson, Ann Cummings, Amy Glazer, and Vijay Rajan; based on the novel by Juliet Bell. Cinematography: Nancy Schreiber. Editing: Mags Arnold.
Cast: Isabella Blake-Thomas, Holland Taylor, Kelly Lynch, Sean Patrick Flanery, Kelly Hu, Steven Michael Quezada, Esperanza Fermin, David Hunt, Stafford Douglas, Hank Rogerson.