But John D. Hancock’s The Looking Glass is a sweet movie. It’s not treacly, neither is it sentimental. It just has a quiet tone that allows its positive moments to linger, taking some of the sting out of its more painful plot developments.
The plot sounds like something you might see flipping channels on cable television: a troubled teen. Julie (Grace Tarnow), is sent to Indiana to live with her grandmother (Dorothy Tristan). Grandma has a lot she wants to give and senses time may be running out, literally and figuratively, on her ability to pass along any of the lessons she’s learned in life. For her part, Julie feels abandoned and punished. “What did I do wrong now?” seems like her most common refrain.
On a television arc each of the small conflicts between generations would be underscored twice and played at a higher volume. Hancock, working off a script from Tristan, lets the characters bend towards each other slowly. Eventually Julie tries out for a local theatrical production of The Alice Variations. Her father and stepmom come by for a visit and to check in on her.
I am old enough to remember Hancock’s first feature film, Bang The Drum Slowly, which came on the heels of his Academy-nominated debut short. After that he mostly did television work. While the film does seem at times to have the choppiness of serial television (not much in the way of transitions, things just happen), the pacing of individual scenes is much more leisurely. This is his second collaboration with Tristan, who makes her first on-screen appearance in over twenty-years.
The Looking Glass is available from First Run Features on DVD beginning January 12, 2016. Given the paucity of good films for and about teen girls, it’s definitely worth flagging if you are a parent always on the lookout for films in that category.