Before Judy Blume was a household name, she was a nervous child growing up in the shadows of a world war. Years later, after settling into her role as a young housewife, she began to write bedtime stories for her two children. Then, a publisher finally gave her a chance, and in a few years, her writing career bloomed. But “Judy Blume Forever” is more than just about the writer herself. It’s also about the social changes in this country, the gender barriers Blume broke through with her books, her struggle to be taken seriously as a professional when others sneered at her kid-friendly literature, and her ongoing fight against conservative efforts to ban books from young readers.
Blume guides her audience through her own story with a gentle narration, recalling anecdotes both funny and tragic, memories of regret and joy, and reading excerpts from her books with a warm enthusiasm that brings these characters and moments to life—often with visual help from animator Angelique Georges and collage artists Andrew Griffin and Martin O’Neill. Pardo and Wolchok expertly use archival footage, like old ads of the era and newsreels, to transport viewers to various times in Judy Blume’s life, which is then illustrated by a treasure trove of family photos and home movies. Facing the camera head-on, Blume is a vulnerable yet powerful storyteller, unafraid to talk about the most painful moments in her story, like her father’s sudden death and her romantic setbacks, just as much as she’s eager to share about the development behind some of her books. Building on Blume’s genial presence, cinematographers Jenni Morello and Emily Topper and composer Lauren Culjack (Kotomi) bring a vibrant and playful energy to the documentary.
Blume’s voice is the most prominent in the film, but an insightful chorus of friends, family, and fans soon join her. Early on, childhood friends remember the schoolyard hijinks and discussions they shared with Blume that later inspired ideas for some of her books. The documentary also includes interviews with Blume’s children, Randy and Lawrence, and her husband, George Cooper, for a look at the author’s life away from her writing desk. Other fans, including writers Jacqueline Woodson, Mary HK Choi, Tayari Jones, Alex Gino, and celebrities like Molly Ringwald, Samantha Bee, and Lena Dunham, add further appreciation of her work and explain her enduring appeal. Finally, and most emotionally, we hear letters written to Blume from children struggling with issues who found solace in the pages of her books. Two of them, Lorrie Kim and Karen Chilstrom, are now grown-up testaments to the positive influence of her work. They found comfort in her books and began writing to Blume as youngsters, and over the years, kept the correspondence going with the writer through major life events and tough times. Blume’s role in their lives is impactful and speaks to how many untold hours she spent looking after her readers of all ages.