Where Hope Grows
PG-13
Entertainment: +3
Acceptability: +2

Kristoffer Polaha (Ringer, North Shore), introduces David DeSantis and co-stars Billy Zabka (How I Met Your Mother, Karate Kid), Brooke Burns (Baywatch), McKaley Miller (The Iceman, Hart of Dixie), Alan Powell (The Song) and Danica McKellar (The Wonder Years, Dancing With The Stars). Drama. Written and directed by Chris Dowling.

FILM SYNOPSIS: Calvin Campbell (Kristoffer Polaha) is a professional baseball player who was sent to an early retirement due to panic attacks at the plate.  Even though he had all the talent for the big leagues, he struggles with the curveballs life has thrown him. Today, Calvin sleepwalks through his days and copes with the challenge of raising his teenage daughter (McKaley Miller). As his life heads in a downward spiral, it is suddenly awakened and invigorated by the most unlikely person – Produce (David DeSanctis), a young man with Down syndrome who works at the local grocery store.

As Calvin slowly loses the chip on his shoulder, he begins to see the world through Produce’s eyes. Calvin’s life begins to regain purpose and meaning as their friendship develops. The unlikely pair become intertwined in a way that gives Calvin a renewed perspective on the future.  But their friendship is put to the ultimate test when an unexpected tragedy occurs due to a single decision echoed from Calvin’s past.  Where Hope Grows is a film about finding redemption through faith, hope and love. Winner of the 2014 Heartland Film Festival Audience Choice Award.

PREVIEW REVIEW: I appreciated this film for its involving storyline and for the fact that it reminds us of the need for spiritual reflection. We get so caught up in the activities of life that we often forget that centering a reverence for God in our lives will give significant dimension to all that we do. The best way to care for others is to begin by caring for Christ. It’s a good film, because without overkill, it makes that point. There are two issues, however, that may raise an eyebrow or two.

In this era of reality movie making, where people defend content that was once a no-no in faith-based films, two things stand out – one a personal annoyance, the other a signal that we not only accept the ways of the world, we now embrace them.

The lead character is first seen with a four-day growth of beard. The last scene in the movie, which takes place weeks or months later, by golly, he’s still got that same four-day growth of beard. This always takes me out of a film, as that facial hair is an affectation. It’s trendy (one, like hip hop music, that just won’t go away), but it doesn’t fit the character. While there are actors who give their all for a role, whether it means gaining 40 pounds or losing 50, there are some actors who simply use facial hair to signal their “coolness.” Their vanity doesn’t suit the characters they are portraying.

A four-day growth of beard only stays at that length for four days in real life, but I won’t go on about it, except to say that scruffy chin and neck did get in the way of the main actor’s otherwise effective performance.

The other eyebrow raiser was the use of a particular swear word in a faith-based film. Yes, swear word. I won’t repeat it here. It’s not the f-word and not the s-word, but at one point the teenage girl realizes her self-centered and abusive boyfriend is, well, come to think of it, there really isn’t a “Christian” word for what this guy is. But it did take me aback to hear her say it, not once, but twice in a film that puts importance on words and deeds.

Filmgoers are just so used to crude or obscene language in movies that now producers are testing their reaction to such language in films of faith. It’s the evolution of cinema. Theatrical releases aimed at Christians are becoming very similar to those playing in other theaters at the same Cineplex. But since I felt this film had substance and wouldn’t suggest it be passed on simply because there are two dispiriting expletives, I’ll let it go. Want to read why I think the right use of language is still important? Click HERE.

As for this drama, which manages to incorporate a sports metaphor, I’ll sum up with one of my own: With its involving story, fine cast, and an affirming spiritual message, Where Hope Grows is a home run.

Preview Reviewer:
Distributor: Roadside Attractions

Summary
Crude Language: None
Obscene Language: Two obscenities and a few minor expletives.
Profanity: None
Violence: A brutish ex-boyfriend molests a girl; the situation could be leading to rape if not for someone hitting the offender with a fire extinguisher; there are a couple of other minor skirmishes; a jolting car accident leads to a death.
Sexual Intercourse: Teens struggle with to have-or-not – he wants self-satisfaction, she wants love.
Nudity: None
Homosexual Conduct: None
Sexually Suggestive Action/Dialog: None
Drug Abuse: The lead is an alcoholic, but the film does not glorify drinking, but rather shows its destructiveness.
Other: None
Running Time: 95 minutes
Intended Audience: Teens and Up

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