The faith based movie industry is really growing in leaps and bounds and more movies of its ilk are popping up to cater audiences interested in this type of film. And the audiences are definitely there as these films are continuing to take in more at the box office and as a result, also getting more money themselves and becoming better produced.
Where Hope Grows is a pretty standard and predictable plot that aligns well with this genre. The story follows a former hot-shot major league baseball star Calivn Cambell (played by Kristoffer Polaha), who is disillusioned with the direction his life has taken and is now an alcoholic. He has a strained relationship with his daughter (McKaley Miller), especially about her dating choices. The more he tries to sort out the issues in his life, the more his addiction struggles seem to thwart him from getting anywhere. Along the way, he develops a friendship with a down-syndrome supermarket employee, named Produce (David DeSanctis) who’s endless joy counteracts the misery he feels in his own life. Through this friendship, he learns to find more meaning and hope in his life as he begins to confront his various demons more.
Needless to say, the story is not exactly going to blow you away and is fairly straight forward in the way it presents itself. Being a faith based film, the film takes a very innocent and upbeat approach to telling its story and although it’s not afraid to show some grittiness in the despairs of its characters – the film never gets too dark and ensures the tone remains mostly upbeat for the majority of the film.
Where the film does stand out is in its performance of Polaha and McKaley Miller, who play their respective roles well and you get a strong chemistry between their relationship and how it evolves as the movie progresses. Polaha’s does enough with his role to hold the films cast together even when the rest of the cast’s performance are less convincing. The main cast is rounded out by Danica McKellar, Kerr Smith, Brooke Burns and William Zabka.
As the movie progresses you do feel for the films characters and the struggles that they are going through and become invested in their lives. The script (by Chris Dowling, who also serves as the films director) is what achieves most of this – allowing for believable dialogue that although is light in tone, is not too sugary as is often the case in films like this. For a faith-based film, it is not very preachy and the film is stronger for it, as it makes the characters more appealing and opens it up to a wider audience. The film is probable aimed more towards a teen audience, but there is something for the entire family to relate to in it.
One aspect of the script that is perhaps subtle, but not really highlighted much in the film is the use of the word “retard” and how people need to change the way they view down-syndrome people. There is a bonus feature on this topic titled “Stop Using the “R” word” that perhaps does a better job at establishing this change in people’s opinions on the topic than what the movie is able to achieve. The film covers the topic lightly, but doesn’t fully explore the damage the words can cause and how it makes the affected person feel. It is tackled with too light a tone to drive its point home and can perhaps be seen as a missed opportunity by the film makers, if it was really their intention.
Dowling as a director does a solid job in balancing most of the tense moments in the film and building the film towards its strong emotional conclusion – which while quite powerful, is far too predictable and forced. There are also several minor characters in the film which don’t get a lot of script time, but you still get a strong idea of who they are and what they are going by their deliberate mannerisms or camera angles that are utilized by the director.
The biggest problem with the film lies in its pacing. It takes a long time to really get going and tell its story and this takes a lot of enjoyment out of the film. The story it tells is not the most compelling, but if the pacing could be improved and some tension brought into earlier scenes in the movies to set its pace quicker, it might engage the viewer more.
It may be a faith-based film, but don’t expect too many miracles to come out of the movie. It is a more than capable feel good film that tackles some tough topics well without being too dark or light. The film is not going to change your view on the topics it explores, but does draw you into its characters. As viewing entertainment, it achieves its goal well enough of how a person can find hope in even his darkest moments.
Where Hope Grows is out now on DVD
Last Updated: April 6, 2016