Family Movie Review: Hope Springs Eternal (PG)

'Hope Springs Eternal' features the instantly likeable Mia Rose Frampton as a teenage girl who learns her terminal cancer diagnosis has changed. The humor is a little broad and the characters are stereotypical, but the movie's messages will still resonate for a young audience.

Kernel Rating: 3 out of 5

MPAA Rating: PG       Length: 78 minutes

Age Appropriate For: 10+. This film focuses on a high school junior who learns that the cancer she was told would kill her is now in remission, and her struggle to adapt to that news. The movie has typical high school drama stuff, like bullying, unrequited romantic feelings between friends, a teen couple who hugs and kisses, some friction and fighting between a mother and her child, and the depiction of a cancer ward where young patients are receiving chemotherapy treatment.

By Roxana Hadadi

Tragedy can define your life, which is how we meet the protagonist of "Hope Springs Eternal." Hope Gracin (Mia Rose Frampton, of "Bridesmaids") has thought since she was 12 years old that she would die of cancer, and her entire identity is tied up in that diagnosis -- her schedule is based around chemo treatments, her image at school is of "Cancer Girl," and her teachers cut her some slack because everyone knows of her terminal diagnosis. She approaches every day as if it could be her last, but when she learns that's no longer the case because she's in remission -- what then?

HopeSpringsEternal1 ChesapeakeFamilyMovieReviewThat's the question posed by "Hope Springs Eternal," and it's one the film handles in a way that will be approachable and understandable for a tween and teen audience. This film breezes by and sticks to a manageable 78-minute run time, which will give families time afterward to discuss the movie's themes: What is more inspirational, fear or hope? Can you change how people at school or in life view you, or is that judgment totally in another person's hands? And what do you owe people who have taken care of you and loved you when your status changes?

Hope finds herself torn when she learns that she's going to live because nearly everything in her life has been defined by the fact that she thought she was going to die. Her relationship with her mother, once very close, begins to fray. Her close relationships, including with her best friend who also has cancer and with a boyfriend who moved from Australia to be with her, are immediately affected. And her future is suddenly something to consider, after years of not applying in school, not studying for tests, and not caring about her grades. How can Hope change?

"Hope Springs Eternal" sometimes veers into high-school-genre stereotypes, like a mysterious popular girl who becomes interested in Hope because of her infamy and who is also a cruel bully, and a guidance counselor who gives Hope the straight talk no one else will. But Frampton is the key, and she strikes a nice balance between a little bit quirky ("Did you know I have six midterms? One for every subject?" she incredulously asks) and a little bit selfish ("Is it better to die popular or live a loser?"), and that's the combination needed to make a character like this empathetic and relatable. She's a young actress to watch.

Frampton is undoubtedly the highlight of a film that doesn't consistently match her charisma, but still, "Hope Springs Eternal" is a satifying family choice that is often funny and could spark interesting conversations with younger viewers.

"Hope Springs Eternal" is currently available on VOD and digital platforms.

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