Hope (Håp) is an intimate look at a few days in the life of a couple and a family when a brain tumor throws everything into turmoil. It was written and directed by Maria Sødahl. It will be released in theaters and virtual theaters in the US on April 16, 2021.
Hope (Håp) takes place in the days between December 23 and January 2. Despite the short time span, the film is slow-moving with a running time of over 2 hours.
Anja (Andrea Bræin Hovig) gets word that the headache she can’t shake is caused by a large tumor on her brain. One year ago, at Christmas, she thought she had recovered from lung cancer. The news that the cancer spread brings big changes.
The film is based on real experiences in the life of writer/director Maria Sødahl, who said, “. . . we experience stories with our heart, intellect and body, and I believe this film will be experienced primarily with the gut, that you will get physically exhausted by watching it. The uncertainty and emotional turbulence leave little room for rest. As a result, the audience will not be left in peace, but will be hopefully be given a wake-up call, a golden opportunity to reflect on choices they make in their own lives.”
Anja’s diagnosis brings anxiety, depression, love, and a host of emotions to the surface. She and her partner Tomas (Stellan Skarsgård) have 6 children – three of their own and three from his first relationship. Anja and Tomas lead separate lives as artists, often not even in the same country. They don’t communicate well and haven’t been close.
The challenge for Anja and Tomas is to figure out how to deal with the problem and deal with the family issues that will surely ensue. They open up to each other and find their way back to love. It’s the beautiful part of this melancholy tale. So often we have to be shocked by life into appreciating the things that really matter. Hope is a beautiful representation of that process.
Stellan Skarsgård and Andrea Bræin Hovig are both wonderful in this. They are surrounded by a big cast of family and friends, but the most telling moments are between the two of them. Tomas was mostly stunned by events while Anja dealt with the emotional lifting as she went through dozens of changes in just a few days.
After winning several awards at festivals, the film was picked as Norway’s Official Selection and Shortlisted Entry for Best International Feature Film at the 93rd Academy Awards.
I watched an Irish film, Ordinary Love, not long ago about a couple dealing with mortality issues. This reminded me a bit of that one because of the anxiety, the waiting, the uncertainty. The couple in that film were already close before the crisis, unlike Anja and Tomas.
Everyone has to deal with the prospect of losing people they love while clinging to hope in the meantime. This film is a reminder to hold love close always.
Here’s a trailer.
In addition to this touching version of the story, it’s been reported that Nicole Kidman bought the rights to Hope and will star in the series adaptation to be co-produced by her production company and Amazon Studios. After watching the Norwegian version, I cannot imagine how an American version would be an improvement. But I’ll be willing to watch.