«This is my story, as I remember it». The phrase, on the black background of the screen, appears at the beginning of ‘Hope’, the second feature film of Maria Sødahl, selected by Norway to compete at the Oscars. In her second foray as a filmmaker, the author of ‘Limbo’ has opted for a autobiographical account in which they coexist the pain, the emotion and the love. Nine years ago the director was detected cancer with a fatal prognosis: three months to live. That disrupted and reconfigured the relationship with her husband, also director Hans Petter Moland. Now Sødahl brings his experience to the big screen.
He does it through Anja (Andrea Bræin Hovig), a transcript of Maria herself, is a theater director, who returns home after her first production abroad. He lives with his partner, Tomas (Stellan Skarsgård), another talented director, and with the three children they have had together. For a few days, a headache has not let her sleep, so on December 23 she goes to the consultation, where they ask her to have an MRI. The result could not be worse: the cancer has returned, it is terminal and this time the tumor is in the brain.
Thus begins an exciting and raw film that moves away from the hackneyed stories of overcoming and that, little by little, goes discovering all the edges and consequences of a disease that raises a multitude of questions, festers uncertainty for the patient and their families, and from which positive aspects can even be extracted. Anja and Tomas, the two artists, lThey have been so focused on work for years that they have grown apart. This adverse situation will once again test a love that seemed completely forgotten.
‘Hope’ is not a kind or corny movie -and see that it was easy to fall into it- and addresses from sincerity and contained emotion issues such as doubts, fears, changes caused by medication, the vital search for a second opinion, despair, how complex the communication, anguish about the future of the children, sleepless nights, pain or truths, often cruel, that stand out when reality explodes and hope fades. But it is also about second chances in love, about rediscovering yourself and the one next to you and about how important it is to discern between the essential and the important and the accessory.
Presented at the Toronto Film Festival and, later, in the Panorama section of the Berlinale, the film received the unanimous applause from the international press, as well as the Europa Cinemas Label Award. With forceful performances – the spectacular Andrea Bræin Hovig received the Amanda Award for best actress and was nominated at the European Film Awards, where the director was also nominated -, Sødahl said in a recent interview that the great challenge when it comes to write the script «It was to avoid looking at the navel. More specifically, I had to strike the right balance in terms of sharing material so private that I hardly dared reveal even myself, to achieve a personal story, rather than private.