Hope is director Alan Zweig’s follow-up to his 2015 documentary, Hurt. Hurt tells the story of Steve Fonyo, a one-legged cancer survivor who rose to fame after completing a cross-Canada run during the early 1980’s. Life rarely goes according to plan and Fonyo’s promising future took a dark turn. When Hope begins, Fonyo is poor, addicted to drugs, and recovering from a coma.
Hope excels at showing us the murky path from addiction to recovery. Fonyo and his partner decide to pack up and leave their troubled lives behind in Surrey British Columbia. The couple relocate to a quaint town where Fonyo undergoes a 60-day stay in a rehab program. Zweig makes it clear that the 60-day stay is merely a band-aid solution and not the be-all and end-all to Fonyo’s problems.
Movies and TV often sell us the idea that beating addiction is as simple as kicking a habit; once the drug is out of your system so is the problem. Anyone who has struggled with addiction or close to someone fighting an addiction knows otherwise. Fonyo doesn’t smoke meth simply for the high. Meth serves as an escape from a lifetime of emotional battery. We can’t simply repair emotional trauma by going cold turkey or spending 60-days in therapy.
Hope’s central tension is whether Fonyo’s healed enough to avoid the negative influences back in Surrey. The film’s abrupt ending robs us of the answer. However, whether or not Fonyo succumbs to temptation, his journey offers a cautionary tale for those at risk of the same trappings. Even if Fonyo never conquers his demons, we can still learn a lesson from his heartbreaking struggle.