Every kid that’s been to a school book fair in the last 50 years knows her name. Her books such as Forever, Blubber, Superfudge, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret are literary staples, and have littered the bookshelves of young readers for generations. Her work has helped influence and challenge societal views on children, women and sexuality, ushering in a wave of empowered art whose ripples in our culture are still felt to this very day. That author is none other than Judy Blume, and after years of fiction writing, the time has come for her to tell the one story she knows best of all, the story of her life.
Judy Blume Forever takes us on an eight decade long journey through Blume’s life, covering everything from her childhood days in Elizabeth, New Jersey, to her recently newfound career as the owner of her own bookshop in Key West.
On the way, we are introduced to a wonderful rotating cast of friends and family from her own life, as well as a number of cultural influencers and authors whose work she inspired. Judy is a woman with undeniable gravitas, and her joyous and bubbly onscreen presence leave audiences hanging on her every word. Most films like this tend to be a bit of a hagiographic affair. Authors, after all, still need to sell books, and being too honest can sometimes be a detriment to your bottom line. Judy however, seems not to be concerned with this at all. She approaches her life with a sense of honesty and earnestness speaking just as much about her triumphs as she does about her regrets. It is this endearing quality of hers that bonds her audience to her story, and it is just one of the few reasons why this film is just so amazing.
At times it can seem as if most documentary filmmakers have a sort of shoot first, find the story later… approach when it comes to making films. However directors Davina Pardo, and Leah Wolchok, do not belong to this particular breed of artist. You can tell that they put time and effort into crafting this movie. This allows audiences to put their trust in the filmmakers, and so when the film does meander off into new territory, it does so with an audience that’s willing to go along for the ride.
Having no doubt themselves been influenced by Blume’s work, the two directors know just how to cut to the heart and humanity of a story, and their natural instinct for storytelling makes for an engaging film that touches the human soul.
Judy Blume Forever is more than just a retrospective look back at the amazing works she has written. It is also a wonderfully moving story about how children deal with trauma, and how reading and writing can serve as a form of cathartic exorcism that helps us deal with inner pain and emotional trauma that would otherwise go untreated and ignored. It is also a story about censorship, the ever ubiquitous threat that dangles above the heads of a new generation of artists and authors like the sword of Damocles.
Any person who has ever worked with children has probably stopped and pondered at the strange duality of children. They have the faces they show us in public, around the dinner table, or around their friends or at school. But then there is the other side to their personality, the one filled with fears, guilt, curiosity and dreams. Judy Blume is the rare kind of author that can speak to both sides, and this uncanny ability of hers is why young readers flock to her work even to this day. Walking away from this film, it is impossible not to feel moved or touched in one way or another. It is a film that reignites one’s sense of childlike curiosity in the world and leaves both its audience and the world in a better place than it was before the film started.
Judy Blume Forever is a must see for any student, parent, teacher or card carrying member of the human race. It is a film that will remind you that you are not alone, and that the feelings and fears you fear are shared by a multitude of others just like you. Even if you have never picked up a Blume novel, this film will have you thumbing through her whole back-catalog in no time.