Maria Sødahl’s sophomore feature may come with a bluntly simple title, Hope, but there’s really no better summation of this intimate story about facing an impossible situation.
Anja (Andrea Bræin Hovig) and Tomas (Stellan Skarsgård) live a pretty comfortable bourgeois Norwegian existence, both of them artists working in dance and theatre, respectively. They have a large family, including three young children between them and two adult children from Tomas’s previous marriage, but their own relationship is somewhat in a rut. Tomas works too hard, often neglecting his family responsibility, and Anja is becoming resentful. This strain is amplified even further when Anja receives news only a few days before Christmas that she has an incurable brain tumour, with potentially very little time left.
Sødahl does an expert job quietly enhancing the stress of an already stressful time of the year as Anja and Tomas keep the diagnosis hidden from their children until they can find the proper way to break it to them, while also frantically researching treatment options. More than anything though, they reflect on their relationship and the love that has slowly eroded over the years, setting the stage for a number of painfully realistic confessions.
While it may tread some familiar ground, the performances of Hovig and Skarsgård elevate this family drama above the standard-issue weepie fare that it could have become. And as Anja continually gets hit with ever-decreasing chances of survival, the determination to cling on to any strand of hope resonates deeply.
- Release Date: 9/7/2019