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‘Hope’ review: Norwegian drama is an emotional powerhouse

Disarmingly authentic.

Hope is one of the most disarmingly authentic movies to be submitted for an award at this year’s Oscars. The Norwegian drama was on the shortlist for Best International Feature is about a couple who have grown apart over the years. It is not so much about a dissatisfaction with the relationship as it is their concentration on their individual careers. When Anja learns she has a terminal illness, the two must reevaluate their lives.

Writer-director Maria Sodahl used her own experiences dealing with cancer when writing the film. Hope is filled with passion and yearning. This is evidenced throughout many scenes. Every interaction and moment takes on added meaning. There have been plenty of stories about dealing with illness. Few have dealt with it so elegantly.

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Hope is about the importance of relationships in a person’s life. The bonds between friends and parents and children are explored. However, the driving force of the film is how Anja and her partner Tomas are dealing with the diagnosis. The two have been together for years but have lived independently despite their extended family.

The scenes involving the two are incredibly moving. Frustration, despair, and anxiety begin to take over the couple’s lives. The pair are essentially forced closer together and begin to look back on their shared past. The fact they never married leads Anja to realize the two never had the strongest relationship even in their best moments. 

The fact that Hope takes place at Christmas adds to the intensity of everything that is happening. The story takes place over one week bringing a sense of urgency as Anja and Tomas grapple with what they have learned and how they should disclose the information to the family and friends. Everything from a family get together to more personal moments are filled with heightened warmth and sadness.

'Hope' review: Norwegian drama is an emotional powerhouse

This opens the door for an emotionally manipulative film that will rely heavily on melodrama. Instead, Hope deals with its heavy themes delicately. The audience is drawn in by the compelling performances of the two leads. Though things take place over the span of seven days, the intimate moments between Anja and Tomas tell the story of a decades long union.

Anja and Tomas may be the core of Hope, but the time spent with other characters are just as interesting. The pain they feel when explaining the situation to their kids is palatable while each emotional victory is a satisfying one. Things culminate in a moving finale that is the result of strong writing and empathetic characters.

Hope opens in select theaters April 16

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