Anja (Andrea Bræin Hovig), a dance choreographer, and Tomas (Stellan Skarsgård), a theater director, live with their six children in Oslo. When Anja gets diagnosed with terminal lung cancer that spreads to her brain, she struggles to come to terms with the diagnosis as well as how and when to disclose the tragic news to her family and friends. She must also deal with the effects that it has on her marriage.
Hope is a tender, warm and heartbreaking portrait of a family experiencing a tragedy in their own separate ways. The screenplay by writer/director Maria Sødahl doesn't have any villains except one silent villain: the cancer. This isn't a cancer movie, though. It's about marriage, love, forgiveness, hope and, above all, human beings. The more you get to know Anja and Tomas, the more you notice their flaws which make them interesting. Like in Ordinary People, the family's tragedy eventually causes a rift in the relationship between the husband and wife as their dysfunction rises to the surface. The scenes at the hospital when Anja goes through more and more tests are quite intense, and it's a testament to the film's unflinching honesty that it doesn't shy away from how Anja suffers both emotionally and physically. Bravo to writer/director Maria Sødahl for seeing and treating the characters as human beings. They're not caricatures nor are they merely there to move the plot forward.
On the inside, Anja is sad, angry, confused and frustrated, but she hides those emotions from her children initially before she tells them the tragic news. Although she does have vulnerability which every human being has, she also has an inner strength, that's quite admirable. Tomas isn't always likeable nor does he have to in order to be a compelling character. This is the kind of movie that feels so real that you're tempted to ask yourself whether or not you would make the same choices that Anja and Tomas make. There's no right or wrong answer which makes the film all the more profound. The screenplay's avoidance of schmaltz and melodrama without any contrived scenes reflects how well Maria Sødahl grasps human nature. It's also worth mentioning that she includes chapters heads that show the passage of time through dates at the end of December which add a little suspense as the audience awaits for the date of Anja's operation.
Andrea Bræin Hovig gives a bravura performance and sinks her teeth very effectively into the emotional complexities and nuances of the role. While Sødahl provides a large window into Anja's heart, mind and soul, Hovig opens that window all the way. Anja has an inner life which Honig does a great job of showing to the audience. The same can be said about the always-reliable Stellan Skarsgård. Neither of them gives a hammy performance even when they're bickering with one another. The screenplay feels authentic as does their performances. At a running time of 2 hours and 6 minutes, Hope is profoundly moving, honest and gripping.
In the Earth