Guest Reviewer: Where Hope Grows
Hello, everyone, I’m C.J.’s son Calvin Chase. My mother persuaded me to see the movie Where Hope Grows with my brother Nathanael. It seemed like a good idea considering that the both my brother and one of the movie's main characters have Down Syndrome, and I wouldn’t have minded going had my mom not made it obvious she was trying to play match-maker between me and a girl from church. When it turned out that the girl in question would be unable to attend, my mom tried asking again, only this time she revealed the her true ulterior motive: to get me to write a review on her behalf for this website. We couldn’t both go to the theatre, you see, because Where Hope Grows is rated PG-13 for drunkenness and sexual references, and my other brother is only seven years old. Fortunately, I like to write movie reviews, so I agreed to her terms, especially since she paid for the tickets.
Where Hope Grows is a story about a jobless, alcoholic, washed-up baseball player named Calvin Campbell whose daughter is dating a punk looking for sex. Ever since he froze at the plate and struck out without swinging his bat, Calvin has lost the will to do anything other than hang out with his buds at the bar. But one day, Calvin starts talking to a man with Down Syndrome named Produce, who works in the produce section of the local grocery store. Produce’s “magical happiness,” as Calvin calls it at one point, draws Calvin’s attention, and the alcoholic starts spending more time with his new friend by teaching Produce how to play baseball.
Calvin starts talking about Produce to his daughter and drinking buddies. At first they shrug it off as a one-time thing or a temporary phase Calvin is going through, but one day while Calvin is golfing with his best friend, Calvin’s incessant praising of Produce incites his friend to say that Calvin is just using Produce to feel good about himself. A heated argument ensues, ending with Calvin punching his friend for saying that Calvin is too scared of his past failure in baseball to make a difference in his own life. Calvin gets drunk, says some mean things to Produce, and misses an extremely important job interview—causing his daughter to lose any remaining faith she had in him.
Rather than fall deeper into despair, however, Calvin finally sees himself for what he has become and works to fix himself. He starts going to alcoholic counseling sessions, and Produce convinces him and his daughter to attend church for the first time. Even Calvin’s best friend helps to break his drinking habit, despite being a chronic drunk himself. But amidst what appears to be a happy ending, the punk ex-boyfriend possesses a vendetta against Produce and the Campbells, and the best friend suspects that his wife is cheating on him, foreboding great misfortune in the near future.
My opinion of the movie? Well, you know that men don’t cry easily, right? Because of that, I have a rule of thumb that any story that can force me to cry in spite of myself is among the greatest. This one did not, but it came extremely close; I was on the verge of tears for about half of the movie. Produce is perhaps one of the most lovable non-child characters I have ever seen, and the friendship he builds with Calvin and his daughter is touching, to say the least. The main character’s quest for redemption is a bit stereotypical, but Produce’s mere presence in the movie throws a major curve ball into that stereotype. And the climax strikes so suddenly and intensely it leaves the audience breathless in a whirlwind of emotions—shock, fear, sadness, anticipation, awe, pride—until the end credits finally appear on screen. I feel I must point out that the character-developing scenes for Calvin’s best friend, though necessary, feel pointless for the majority of the movie, but even with that one down-side, I give it 4.5 out of 5 stars—a movie you should definitely go see.