Hope – Review

by Chris Connor

Maria Sødahl’s Limbo earned rave reviews upon its release in 2010. Her first film since Limbo, Hope is semi-autobiographical exploring her experiences with cancer.  It’s a deeply intimate and moving depiction of the effects the illness has on our relationships with those closest to us.

In Hope, Andrea Bræin Hovig’s Anja is a successful choreographer with an international career, in a relationship with Stellan Skarsgård’s Tomas. Their relationship and extended family are upended by the news of cancer spreading to her brain. The initial prognosis isn’t filled with optimism and much of the film is coming to terms with this and the lasting effect it may have.

The performances from the two leads are restrained but laced with warmth and depth as the two grapple with what the diagnosis means and how it affects their relationship which seems to have been cold for some time. There are eye-opening conversations about where their relationship has been heading and whether Tomas’ sudden desire to marry Anja is too little too late and why he didn’t propose sooner. Where perhaps the relationship has fallen down is in the pair’s respective commitments to their careers rather than each other.

Film Review - Hope (2021) - The Peoples Movies

 It’s refreshing to see Skarsgård in a smaller scale project after years in films from the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Pirates Of The Caribbean. Here he is restrained and contemplative, wrestling with the news and how to reconcile his relationship with Anja.  Andrea Bræin Hovig more than holds her own against such an experienced and acclaimed co-star really selling the devastation that accompanies her diagnosis and the clear bond Anja shares with her family. The film flips between optimism and pessimism and it is down largely to its two leads that the tug of war tonally is pulled off in a succinct manner.

The Christmas and New Year backdrop if anything helps the film hit harder as naturally, this is a period where we spend much time with our loved ones or close friends and here it is clear the family are struggling to keep a positive air. This also adds a sense of urgency to proceedings with the family struggling to find slots to marry before the surgery of early January.

Hope is a reflective and touching film anchored by two superb performances that help convey the depth of emotion required for this subject matter. For a film focused on the uncertainty of life, it is still positive and shows the importance of relationships and family.  

The final shot indicates that not all hope is lost and that the darkest times can help us bring the best out in each other, it is clear that there is still a deep-rooted love between the central pair and it’s the quiet, silent moments where this shines through the most. Fingers crossed we don’t have to wait ten years for Sødahl’s next film; she has proven here she is a director of the highest order by delicately and personally addressing such an emotive topic.

Hope is out in cinemas now.

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