Review: Andrea Bræin Hovig & Stellan Skarsgård Star In Maria Sødahl’s Stunning HOPE

5 out of 5 stars

Hope is a semi-autobiographical piece of cinema from writer-director Maria Sødahl. The Norwegian filmmaker’s last film was 2011’s Limbo and Sødahl took a long hiatus following its release after she was diagnosed with brain cancer. Hope is based on her own experiences – and you can tell. This is a film from the heart, one which feels very real naturalistic and honest. 

Andrea Bræin Hovig and Stellan Skarsgård play Anja and Tomas, a middle-aged couple who must deal with Anja’s terminal brain cancer diagnosis over the Christmas period. It’s a powerful piece of filmmaking, beautifully acted by Hovig and Skarsgård. You’d have to search far and wide to find a film which features such great performances and nuanced characterisation. Hope was selected as the Norwegian entry for Best International Feature Film at the 93rd Academy Awards and it made the shortlist – but the fact that it failed to get nominated is nigh on criminal. 

In January 2021 it was announced that Nicole Kidman bought the remake rights to Hope and she plans to produce a series adaptation for Amazon Studios. It’s doubtful that her version will have the conviction and intimacy of Sødahl’s film or that she’d be able to deliver a performance which is anywhere near as good as Andrea Bræin Hovig. It’s a true tour de force, a piece of acting which is multi-layered but never showy. She spends most of her screen-time with Stellan Skarsgård and the pair share a wonderful rapport and impressive chemistry.

Simply put, Hope is a wonderful piece of filmmaking from Maria Sødahl. It’s a film which mirrors her own health struggles and it perfectly conveys the conflicted nature of the human condition in the face of adversity. It may sound like a film which could be quite dark, but much like real-life, Hope has lightness and levity in the darkness. Stunning.