Judy Blume Forever – Sundance 2023

A still from Judy Blume Forever by Davina Pardo and Leah Wolchok, an official selection of the Premieres section at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

Judy Blume Forever is a raw and honest documentary about the beloved children’s author and doesn’t shy away from sensitive subjects.

If young teens wanted to know what was happening to their body, all they needed to do was read a Judy Blume book. It certainly applies to the pre-internet era but you could still make an argument today. Well, unless libraries ban them. Blume isn’t alone when it comes to library bans–something that is still happening today. But anyway, Blume’s openness about sex and puberty is one of the reasons why the author appeals to generations of readers. Her books are both timely and timeless. Even though today’s generation might not resonate with the previous technology (rotary phones! landlines!) Blume is still able to get through to them.

Blume’s correspondence archive is located at Yale, where you’ll find no shortage of letters from children. We’re talking about letters that would probably be better for a therapist than an author. The letters play a key role in the film and in some instances, the filmmakers track down the original letter writers such as Lorrie Kim and Karen
Chilstrom. Blume has developed a relationship with both through the years. What I love about the film is how co-directors Davina Pardo and Leah Wolchok are able to weave in the letters with Blume’s own stories. As one 1979 letter states: “How do you know all our little secrets?” A total recall memory for starters. But also, Blume used to be a child herself. It’s fascinating to watch her talk about how she got into writing. It was originally going to be a side thing but grew into something so much bigger.

Even before the film gets into the subject of Forever, the documentary already earns it R rating just because of Blume’s friend using “fucking”. Once the documentary delves into the novel, the word cannot be avoided. To no surprise, parents would not let their children read the book. In Judy Blume’s defense, she did look up the definition in the dictionary and it said “a meaningless word identifier.” Listen, “fuck” or “fucking” is a word and children are using it whether their parents know about it or not.

Davina Pardo’s persistence at wanting to make a Judy Blume documentary pays off. Unfortunately, the Covid pandemic would mean delaying filming. The silver lining is that the co-directors read and reread the many Blume novels while plotting their ideas for the film. That there had yet to be a Judy Blume documentary before this film is surprising. While a number of actresses and banned authors appear in the movie, one person missing is Kelly Fremon Craig. The filmmaker wrote and directed the upcoming adaptation of Are You There G-d? It’s Me, Margaret. Interestingly enough, the new film will come out a week after the documentary launches on Prime Video. Talk about timing!

Judy Blume Forever was one of my highly anticipated films going into Sundance and it did not disappoint. I really wasn’t expecting Blume to be saw raw and honest in discussing her life. There are times when the author becomes vulnerable while discussing her father’s death, which she wrote about in Tiger Eyes. It’s moments like these that really make an impact on viewers.

DIRECTORS: Davina Pardo & Leah Wolchok

Judy Blume Forever holds its world premiere during the 2023 Sundance Film Festival in the Premieres program. Amazon Studios will release the film April 21 on Prime Video. Grade: 4/5

Please subscribe to Solzy at the Movies on Substack.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.