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South Korea 2013


Lee Joon-ik

Seol Kyeong-gu
Eom Ji-won
Lee Re
Kim Hae-sook
Kim Sang-ho
Ra Mi-ran
Yang Jin-seong
Kim Do-yeop
Kang Seong-hae

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Story: Dong-hoon (Seol Kyeong-gu) is always busy as is his wife Mi-hee (Eom Ji-won). Thus, their 8-year old daughter So-won (Lee Re) is already accustomed to having to take care of herself. Even though Mi-hee isn't really satisfied with her situation and although she also hasn't yet told her husband that she is pregnant again the family seems generally pretty happy. However, one day on her way to school So-won is kidnapped by a man, raped and beaten up. Dong-hoon and Mi-hee can't believe what happened when they see their daughter at the hospital. She suffered permanent damage and needs an artificial anus. Apart from her physical healing she is in particualarly strong need of mental healing. Specialist Jeong-sook (Kim Hae-sook) is called to help So-won since she shuts off and doesn't talk anymore. But the parents also need help in order to deal with this traumatic experience. It proves to be especially difficult looking into the future since the culprit may be apprehended, but the sentence is yet to be pronounced. However, the family has friends who lend them their support during these dark days.

Review: What you first believe to have in front of you with "Hope" is a true tearjerker. Although nowadays the plot probably has to be called hackneyed, the movie ultimately surprises with where it puts its focus on in the story. There are no thriller aspects, a failing legal system isn't severely criticized (or at least it's not the main subject) and this also isn't a fatal-illness story. "Hope" is instead a movie about mental healing and a family and a community that keep each other grounded. Accordingly, the drama turns out to be surprisingly life-affirming, despite countless tears that inevitably will be shed by most viewers. The reasons for the movie to work out so well is a multilayered screenplay and a very good cast.

Hope - Film Screenshot 11

At first the introduction drags on a bit too much and you even start to wonder when this idyllic world is about to fall apart because of a gruesome crime. But director Lee Joon-ik ("The King and the Clown", "Sunny") is approaching the subject with the necessary sensitiveness. He shows only the results of the crime and even this is hard to watch. Seeing So-won covered in blood at the hospital, her permanent injuries - all of this is just the small contour of the mental suffering that the girl has to carry from that day on. One of the strongest scenes is when Dong-hoon wants to undress his daughter at the hospital shortly after the crime and realizes way too late that by doing so he makes her relive the trauma she suffered.

Hope - Film Screenshot 12

This scene is also significant for another reason. Not one single individual in "Hope" is perfect and there are constantly being made mistakes. This makes the characters extremely believable and also creates the necessary emotional bond. This is also thanks to the great actors. Seol Kyeong-gu ("Cold Eyes", "The Tower") as the father slowly gets closer to his daughter again who is ashamed of the way she acted in front of him, which also makes him dress as a figure from a children's program. What easily could have been embarassing to watch has serious emotional weight thanks to him and the good screenplay as well as a nuanced directing and also carries the drama very well. At the same time this is also were it becomes apparent that "Hope" can be quite funny, too. There are some scenes that will make you cry and laugh out loud at the same time - and this isn't a contradiction at all!

Acting-wise there is also Eom Ji-won ("Scout") who manages to convince. It especially her who often acts in the wrong way, but you can always understand for what reasons. The actual star of the movie is naturally little Lee Re. In the beginning she seems somewhat fake, as she turns out to behave way too mature for her age, but particularly during the emotional scenes she delivers a fantastic performance as she plays her part in a very nuanced fashion. This is also were director Lee deserves some words of praise. He may not be able to avoid the mandatory piano soundtrack and every now and then he also gets carried away (e.g. turning things into a total emotional rollercoaster when Mi-hee loses conscience), but all in all he creates many uncontrived emotional dialogues and scenes, for example when the media storms the hospital. It's more than anything else its honesty that makes "Hope" stand out so much.

Hope - Film Screenshot 13

Moreover, the movie extremely benefits from a well written script. The screenplay tackles many aspects and asks from different angles how you could heal a scar like that of So-won. Furthermore, it turns out that stuff which at first seemed unimportant is in fact of real importance later on. The screenplay is very elaborate and there are no superfluous characters. After almost 100 minutes the drama could have come to a good end, but the additional twenty minutes still contribute meaningful aspects to the story. At the end you can be sure that your average viewer has shed quite some tears and critics will be enthusiastic about a sophisticated screenplay and a great cast. "Hope" is a drama to the core, but it also makes you laugh on more than one occasion. Accordingly, it's a movie that will also be a gentle rainshower for your soul.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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