Calvin is a down on his luck ex-pro baseball player who has been struggling to get his career back on track ever since he blew it in a big game. He’s addicted to alcohol and has a strained relationship with his daughter. He’s aimless in life until he randomly meets a young man with Downs syndrome working at a local grocery store. Named Produce, he immediately forms an unlikely bond with Calvin and begins to unknowingly challenge him to live better. In talking with Produce, Calvin begins to have a whole new outlook on life—one that doesn’t revolve around himself. But as the challenges and struggles facing them get tougher, they will each have to choose how they are going to respond in order to determine where they will end up in life.
Production Quality (1 point)
Where Hope Grows is severely under-funded. It’s painfully obvious that one main camera is used and that it is not stationary or mechanically movable, as the shots frequently shake around. The video quality is also B-grade, but not as bad as it could be. The sound is inconsistent, but mostly stays good. Perhaps one of the biggest production issues is the painful absence of a soundtrack. If this film had a musical score, it would be greatly improved. On the upside, the sets and locations are good; the crew demonstrates a commitment to making everything look realistic rather than getting stuck in a few cheesy sets. However, the editing is unfortunately very confusing, making the storyline hard to follow. Overall, the production shows that this film was not a throw together and it feels like the crew did the best they could with what they had. We only wish they had more funds to work with.
Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)
There is a lot of great content in this plot that doesn’t seem to live up to its full potential. The concept of this film is very ingenious in an inspirational market that is flooded with pedestrian movies. It accurately and realistically (sometimes too realistically) portrays real issues facing ordinary people, whether special needs people or ex-professional athletes and their families. However, it is sometimes too hard to connect with the characters because the plot is too choppy to create an environment conducive to character development. Dialogue is too inconsistent—sometimes profound and other times understated and isolating. There are too many portions of the plot that are either too short or not explained well enough. There are also too many points where the audience is tempted to turn off the movie because it’s too confusing or too raw. But if you do make it to the end, there is actually a very creative intersection of the characters that partially makes it all worth it. This portion of the film is the best because it is well thought out but it is also frustrating to watch, knowing how much better it could be. Elsewhere, as previously mentioned, there is too much raw and sometimes crude content in this film—even though this definitely realistic, it should be presented in a more palatable way. In summary, there are many ways in which Where Hope Grows could have been a better film and we really wish a remake would be made.
Acting Quality (2 points)
Surprisingly, the acting is the strongest point of this movie. It is so rare to cast a special needs person in a film, so the casting of David DeSanctis is both groundbreaking and highly appropriate. The remainder of the cast sometimes lives up the acting genius of DeSanctis and sometimes they do not. Emotional delivery is pretty good throughout, but sometimes it is over the top. Therefore, the acting quality is overall above average.
In Christian and inspirational film, there is a list of movies that are frustrating to watch because they exhibit far more potential than they produce. These films should all be up for remakes, and Where Hope Grows is one of those. Special needs people need to be portrayed properly in movies; this is one way that this film breaks barriers. If it had more money behind it and less crude content, we can’t help but think that it would have been Hall of Fame worthy and extremely successful in inspirational circles. But alas, we are left with another film that could have been.
Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points