Review - Matt Mungle - @themungle
In theaters May 15th.
I was pleasantly surprised at how good a film WHERE HOPE GROWS is. Where I was expecting emotional manipulation I actually got a solid, down to earth, feel good experience. Instead of unrelate-able characters with no real life issues I was handed lots of depth and personal struggle that was relevant and believable. And in place of a preachy, watered down script I was given a dialogue of hard, true to life questions about faith and family. Full of humor, drama, and heart stirring moments it could be the surprise hit of the early summer.
Calvin Campbell (Kristoffer Polaha) is a washed up major league baseball player trying to get a grip on the reality of life. He walks around in a drunken stupor which only alienates him from everyone; including his teenage daughter Katie (McKaley Miller). When Calvin begins a friendship with "Produce"(David DeSanctis), a local grocery store worker with Down syndrome, he begins to view life a bit differently. Produce always has a hug, smile, and word of encouragement for those he meets. At first this is strange to Calvin but he soon starts to see the real joy in Produce's life.
DeSanctis is one of the only actors with Down syndrome to be cast as a leading character in a major motion picture. He does a great job here of grasping the emotion of Produce and carrying many of the scenes. He is funny and instantly lovable. Like Calvin you immediately want whatever it is that makes him so open and upbeat.
The film as a whole is encouraging and heartwarming. At times the characters can be a bit overly stereotypical. Katie is super dramatic and rebellious. Calvin is extremely detached. It makes it hard to believe the pretty bow that is supposed to tie it all up. The film is not all puffy clouds though. The script does a good job of writing some solid life issues. Calvin's journey is full of questions that we all deal with. That helps with the grounding.
I am not sure I would call this a faith based film. And it is better for it. There are questions of faith and God but not in the way that most church films are delivered. Produce is devout in his belief and it is reflected genuinely. WHERE HOPE GROWS is rated PG-13 for thematic issues involving drinking and teen sexuality, and for brief language and an accident scene. It is not a film for the whole family but one that you could and should watch with older teens. There is nothing gratuitous about it plus the story and dialogue will stir up some nice discussion questions for later.