I did not expect that this would be such a professional production since the cast consisted of little-known actors.  I was wrong.  The story was written by Dorothy Tristan who plays the part of the grandmother, Karen Shanahan.  Dorothy won the River Bend Film Festival Award for Best Actress for her role in “The Looking Glass.”  The film was made entirely in Indiana which provided exquisite scenery and projected the theme of Middle America where family values are paramount.


Musical notesCredit: Wikimedia Commons

                                                            Musical Notes - Wikimedia


Thirteen-year-old Julie (Grace Tarnow) had just lost her mother Belinda and was sent to live with her grandmother Karen in Indiana.  Julie’s father has married again, to Sybil, and Julie has had difficulty getting along with Sybil.  Her father thought it best if she went to live with her maternal grandmother instead.

Julie was extremely quiet and introverted and found it hard to relate to her grandmother, who took her shopping, allowed her to drive the golf cart around her extensive property, and tried to feel her out, but was unable to make a connection.  Julie preferred to use her iPad for several hours during the day rather than converse with Karen.

Julie is Sad in her New Home

Julie did become intrigued with a neighbor’s dog whose name was Oliver.  The dog was appeared to be neglected, and was chained outdoors in all kinds of weather, with no one to care for him.  Julie finally made a connection, albeit with a dog.

Karen’s neighbors, Terry and Marge, were old friends of Julie’s mother, and were interested in making Julie feel at home.  Terry did odd jobs for Karen around her house and was able to draw Julie out when he told her about having a drug problem when he was young from which Marge helped him to recover.


Alice in Through the Looking GlassCredit: Wikimedia Commons

                                                          Through the Looking Glass                                                                                                                                           Wikimedia

Karen was a Famous Singer and Film Star

Karen had been a successful stage and screen star as well as a singer when she was very young.  Julie liked looking at old pictures of her grandmother that were packed away in a box in Julie’s bedroom.  She also liked to play a CD of Karen singing.  Karen noticed that Julie herself had a beautiful singing voice when she sang along with Karen’s rendition on the CD.

Julie Auditions for a Musical

The viewer at this point might wonder at the slowness of the story, but it suddenly came to life.  Karen persuaded Julie to go to an audition for young people at a community theatre which was planning to produce a musical about “Alice in Wonderland.”  Julie balked at going initially, but later changed her mind.  She sang “God Bless America” for the judges who related to Karen that they liked Julie and that she was in the running for a part.  After what seemed an eternity, they learned that Julie got the part of Alice in the musical.  Karen received the news that Julie’s father Arthur and her stepmother Sybil were planning to come for opening night and would stay at Karen’s house.

Julie Makes Friends

A group of the young actors planned to go to the beach and asked Julie to come along.  One of the boys, Anthony, took a liking to Julie and they became friends.    Her assimilation into Indiana life was making progress.


Musical NotesCredit: Wikimedia Commons

                                                               Musical Notes - Wikimedia

Karen Has Symptoms of Forgetfulness

Arthur and Sybil came to stay for a while and Karen picked them up at the airport.  They realized that Karen lost her way when they headed for home, and were concerned about it.  Also, she ran a red light and hit another car.  Arthur insisted that she should not drive again, particularly if she had Julie in the car.  They made arrangements for Karen’s friend and neighbor, Terry, to drive Julie to rehearsals.  Terry and Julie became friends, and Julie related to Terry that her mother had often spoken about Terry and liked him.

Julie introduced her friend Anthony to the visitors, and she and Anthony took Oliver for a walk.  Arthur and Sybil came to the rehearsals and were impressed with Julie’s performance as well as the entire cast.

The Carnival Came to Town

The carnival came to town and Julie went to the festivities with Karen, Arthur, and Sybil.  Julie spotted Anthony with another girl, and as she watched from a distance, Anthony kissed the girl.  Julie went up to them and threw a pie in the girl’s face and they started to fight.  When they arrived home, her family learned that Julie had drank some iodine in an attempt to kill herself, and they had to take her to the hospital.  Karen fainted in the hospital, having experienced a mild heart attack.  Luckily, the doctor flushed the poison out of Julie and she survived the experience.  They had her sedated.  When Julie was released, Karen still had to stay on for observation.  She disobeyed the doctor’s orders and left the hospital anyway.

Karen’s Life Story Boosts Julie’s Confidence

Julie confided to her grandmother that she no longer wanted to be in the musical.  Karen told Julie her own life story of auditioning at Carnegie Hall and winning a part in a musical.  When she told her parents, they were totally uninterested and left the room as she sang to them.  She decided that she believed in herself and would pursue her dreams anyway.  And she became successful.  Karen assured Julie that when she died, Terry and Marge would take care of her and she had a college fund for Julie to attend Sarah Lawrence as her mother had done.  Julie went back to rehearsals, disappointing the understudy who had taken over Julie’s part temporarily.



The Mad HatterCredit: Wikimedia Commons

                                                                      The Mad Hatter                                                                                                                                    Attribution:  Sander van der Wel                                                                           Wikimedia

The Musical Opens

When the first night of the musical arrived, Karen was feeling too ill to go.  Arthur and Sybil were there.  Terry and Marge stayed back with Karen.

The musical that those young people put together was one of the most professional productions I have ever watched.  The actors were marvelous; the costumes were spectacular.  I felt as if I were watching a Broadway production.  It was the highlight of the film.

Julie Tells Her Grandmother About First Night

When Julie came home, she recounted to Karen that she remembered what her grandmother told her to do while she waited in the wings to go on stage.  It was a phrase to bolster her confidence, and it worked.  As she spoke to Karen who was lying in bed, Karen suddenly became silent.  Julie realized that she had died.

That is not the end of the story.  There is a huge surprise at the end which will not be revealed here.  This film brought tears to my eyes, and was one of the sweetest stories I have ever seen.  I loved every minute of it.