Director: Chris Dowling | 94 minutes | drama | Actors: Kristoffer Polaha, David DeSanctis, McKaley Miller, Michael Grant, William Zabka, Brooke Burns, Clyde Jones, Alan Powell, Danica McKellar, Kerr Smith, Drew Cash, J. Teddy Garces, Chase Anderson, Sonya Thaper, Michelle J. Fine , Ken Arnold, Daniel Harrison Smith, Rebecca Lines, Michelle Chalmers, J. Michael Breaux, Richard Hagerman, Phillip DeLaney, Robert Johnson
It is a genre that is not made in the Netherlands and you will never actually see it in the cinema: the religious drama. Not that spirituality on this side of the Atlantic does not appeal to the imagination, only with us it is generally packaged a little more subtly in the message, while the genre films that reach us from the United States are completely drenched in their edification. “Where Hope Grows” (2014) by director Chris Dowling fits the pattern perfectly: a wandering man in the process of throwing away his life seeks and finds salvation in faith. What argues in favor of the film is the solid acting and the special friendship between the main character and an endearing boy with Down syndrome, who, despite its predictable course of action, is indeed moving. However, the clichés, the superficiality and especially the religious message that is pushed down your throat, weigh more heavily in the assessment of this film.
Calvin (Kristoffer Polaha) is a former professional baseball player whose career has come to an early halt due to injuries and other physical discomforts. Now that he has been forced to leave the house, it is difficult for him not to wallow in self-pity. As a single father, he struggles to keep his seventeen-year-old daughter Katie (McKaley Miller) in line. But that she finds it difficult to show respect for her listless, alcoholic father is somewhere understandable. If only he found a good job… The dark sky in Calvin’s life clears when he meets “Produce” (David DeSanctis) at the local supermarket. Produce is a cheerful, positive-minded boy with Down syndrome who works as a handyman in the shop and who has the charming habit of hugging customers. Even the emotionally dull Calvin thaws and takes care of Produce by teaching him baseball, and a warm friendship develops. And let Produce just be an avid churchgoer who faithfully walks around with a Bible under his arm. At first, the religious disposition of his new friend Calvin doesn’t care, but after another drinking bout he misses an important job interview, he starts scratching his head anyway. Will he finally see the light? Calvin even decides to go to an AA meeting, where he finds new hope in the person of fellow sufferer Amy (Brooke Burns).
“Where Hope Grows” relies heavily on drama and is better than good. Everything that God has forbidden comes across as a great threat. Katie who is forced by her rather aggressive boyfriend Colt (Michael Grant) to sleep with him while trying to keep her virginity, Calvin’s best friend (Billy Zabka) who discovers that his wife (Danica McKellar) might have someone else on it. keeps up; that work. Everyone has to walk within the lines, and the events are quite clichéd. While the edifying message really could have been even more pronounced, it is unmistakably the catalyst of the plot here; moreover, we work towards a rather artificial end, in which there is little room for the viewer’s own interpretation. Only sporadically does things get more subtle, especially in the build-up of the unlikely friendship between Calvin and Produce. The inexperienced DeSanctis is disarming and natural and by far the most sincere thing about this film. Americans may love this, but for most European viewers, a movie like “Where Hope Grows” will really be too bland and devout.