HOPE – Review by Susan Wloszczyna

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It takes some cinematic guts for a filmmaker to base a movie on their own harrowing encounter with a terminal cancer diagnosis that eventually led to a nine-year hiatus from their craft. With Hope, Norwegian writer/director Maria Sodahl doesn’t just make a comeback, but she also delivers a no-holds-barred accounting of a relationship of an unmarried couple with six children of various ages between them whose romantic inclinations have grown stale as the pair focus on their own creative pursuits.

Sodahl couldn’t have chosen a better leading lady than Andrea Braein Hovig as choreographer Anja, who learns her lung cancer that led to an operation a year earlier has metastasized and spread to her brain. She reminds of a young Helen Mirren, with a face that is more handsome than pretty. The fact that Anja learns about the news at Christmas time makes matters all the more dire and depressing. But as she tells her partner Tomas, played by a terrific and stoic Stellan Skarsgard, that she needs him to be there for her. Anja knows she will have to rely on her distant companion in her time of need.

But at a certain point as Anja’s surgery looms, the pair decides to finally tie the knot after 20 years together on New Year’s Eve. While their characters are more prickly and distant than endearing, the fact that their children, adult friends and Anja’s kind and caring father are there for them makes us think more highly of Anja and Tomas considering how the attendees are fully invested in making their wedding both memorable and romantic with fireworks in the falling snow and strewn rose petals and candlelight in their bedroom.

I can imagine a Hollywood soap-operatic interpretation of this story whose final moments would be a semi-uplifting. But Sodhal bravely maintains her stoic approach to her scripts emotional mood swings. Anja’s kind and sympathetic father gets the truest line in the movie as he tells his daughter, “You choose the life you get to a great degree.”

EDITOR’S NOTE:Hope is AWFJ’s Movie of the Week for March 26, 2021″ rel=”noopener noreferrer” target=”_blank”>Movie of the Week for April 16, 2021

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Susan Wloszczyna

In her nearly 30 years at USA Today, Susan Wloszczyna interviewed everyone from Vincent Price and Shirley Temple to Julia Roberts and Will Smith. Her coverage specialties include animation, musicals, comedies and any film starring Hayley Mills, Sandy Dennis or hobbits. Her crowning career achievements so far, besides having Terence Stamp place his bare feet in her lap during an interview for The Limey, is convincing the paper to send her to New Zealand twice for set visits, once for The Return of the King and the other for The Chronicles of Narnia and King Kong, and getting to be a zombie extra and interview George Romero in makeup on the set for Land of the Dead. Though not impressive enough for Pulitzer consideration, she also can be blamed for coining the moniker "Frat Pack," often used to describe the comedy clique that includes Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Will Ferrell. Her positions have included Life section copy desk chief for four years and a film reviewer for 12 years. She is currently a contributor for the online awards site Gold Derby and is an Oscar expert for RogerEbert.com. Previously, she has been a freelance film reporter and critic, contributing regularly to RogerEbert.com, MPAA’s The Credits, the Washington Post, AARP The Magazine online and Indiewire as well as being a book reviewer for The Buffalo News. She previously worked as a feature editor at the Niagara Gazette in Niagara Falls, N.Y. A Buffalo native, she earned her bachelor's degree in English at Canisius College and a master's degree in journalism from Syracuse University.