The Play’s the Thing That Sets Intergenerational Drama ‘The Looking Glass’ Apart


Forty years into their marriage, veteran director John D. Hancock (Bang the Drum Slowly, Prancer) and his wife, actress Dorothy Tristan, have collaborated on an overlong but deeply felt film about a dying woman trying to connect with her granddaughter.

Tristan, who also wrote the screenplay, stars as Karen, a retired actress living in a small Indiana town, whose daughter has recently died. Karen’s own health is in decline, but she’s keeping that a secret so that she can take in her thirteen-year-old granddaughter, Julie (Grace Tarnow), whose father can no longer handle her anger and rebellion.

Karen’s instinctive solution is to steer Julie toward the town play, which turns out to be a wild, avant-garde musical version of Alice in Wonderland staged by choreographer Irina Tsikurishvili.

The Looking Glass is too talky and too conventional in its first hour — painfully so — but the filmmakers have discovered Tarnow, whose gorgeous, lilting voice carries a wisdom well beyond her years. The film’s final section, centered on Julie’s opening night, amid a personal crisis for Karen, is worth the long windup — the kid’s a star, and Hancock and Tristan are clearly thrilled to be sending her off into the world.

The Looking Glass

Directed by John D. Hancock

First Run Features

Opens October 23, Cinema Village