Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Movie with Abe: Hope

Directed by Maria Sødahl
To Be Released April 16, 2021

Mortality can put everything in perspective, distinguishing between the trivial and the truly important that matters most with limited time left. It’s rarely quite that easy, of course, because not everyone has the same perception of someone’s life span and what they may need most in a time of need that they can’t quite relate to since they likely aren’t in the process of dying. Grief and loss have been explored in cinema countless times, with some representations coming off as trite and inauthentic. Norway’s shortlisted Oscar submission for Best International Feature movingly tackles the anxiety and complexity of preparing others for an inevitability they are closer to accepting.

Anja (Andrea Bræin Hovig) is married to Tomas (Stellan Skarsgård), and the two have a large family that includes three shared children and three older stepchildren Anja has helped Tomas in raising. They are no longer close and have invested plenty of time in their own careers. When Anja’s cancer returns and she is given a terminal diagnosis, she finds it difficult to share the news of her fate with others and encounters particular trouble deciding how she can tell her family. Tomas tries to be there for his wife in a way that he hasn’t been in many years as she faces what feels like an all-too-certain and short future.

This film deals with a subject very commonly covered in cinema, a person’s impending death and the complexity of wanting to savor every remaining moment balanced with desiring not to be treated differently by those who would surely behave in a changed manner were they made aware of the severity of that person’s condition. In her first film in ten years, writer-director Maria Sødahl revisits her own life story in a poignant and heartfelt look at a situation that befalls all too many and doesn’t feel glorified for dramatic impact but much more real and appropriately unpolished in how its characters speak with and about each other.

Hovig is the heart of this film, presenting Anja as someone who is rarely the center of attention and almost never gets the praise she deserves for keeping her large family afloat in the absence of her husband. As Anja, Hovig is sincere and resigned at times, aware of what’s possible and what it is that she might want in her final days. Her extremely authentic and strong performance is matched by Skarsgård, who doesn’t make Tomas into an overly endearing and sympathetic personality just as complicated and worthwhile as the rest of this carefully-constructed and resonant film.


Make sure to read my interview with director Maria Sødahl and star Andrea Bræin Hovig for Awards Radar!

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