Hope Frozen: A Quest to Live Twice

Movie review by
Barbara Shulgasser-Parker, Common Sense Media
Hope Frozen: A Quest to Live Twice Movie Poster Image
Scientist dad makes unorthodox decision; mature themes.
  • NR
  • 2018
  • 75 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Sometimes, when we become desperate to save a sick loved one, we turn to unlikely measures. "We are heading toward deathlessness."

Positive Role Models & Representations

A girl's parents work day and night to save their 2-year-old daughter who is dying of brain cancer. Her older brother becomes a researcher and devotes himself to the science of reviving her.

Violence

A young child suffers from aggressive brain cancer and dies. To preserve her until a cure is found, her family turns to cryogenics. After her death, her brain is detached from her body, frozen, and maintained in a tank in Arizona. A young man watches his sister's brain being dehydrated and he describes that her face and eyeballs got sucked in. This procedure changes the structure of her brain, making it less likely that her brain can be brought back to its original form.

Sex
Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know Hope Frozen: A Quest to Live Twice is a 2018 Thai documentary (in Thai and English) that follows a family coping with their baby girl's incurable brain cancer. Her father ceaselessly searches for a cure, but when he realizes she'll die before she's 3, he persuades the family to have her brain cryogenically preserved in a tank in Arizona. A young man watches his sister's brain being dehydrated and he describes that her face and eyeballs got sucked in. After her death, the girl becomes the youngest ever preserved that way, making her an international news story. Later, an expert in the field tells the family that the chance of ever reviving her safely is less than .1%.  

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What's the story?

HOPE FROZEN: A QUEST TO LIVE TWICE is the story of a Thai family struggling to cope with their baby's diagnosis of brain cancer and the realization that she won't make it to her third birthday. Her scientist father becomes obsessed with finding treatments, but as the prognosis becomes dire, he switches his research to learning about cryogenic preservation. He works to persuade his wife to freeze their baby's brain so that what's left of their daughter can be thawed one day, perhaps hundreds of years later, when technology can bring her back safely and cure her cancer. The cryogenics team flies her to Arizona, where her head is surgically removed from her body and her brain is dehydrated and filled with a kind of anti-freeze for storage at a low temperature. Her older brother Matrix, a precocious, science-oriented teen, is devoted to helping bring her back. At age 16 he travels alone to the U.S. to learn more about cryogenics, and returns with the discouraging news that at least one expert believes there's only a .1% chance of bringing his sister back from her frozen state.

Is it any good?

This is an odd documentary, primarily about mourning and grief, and not so much about the cryogenics. Hope Frozen doesn't dwell on many details that would explain the cryogenics process, and much of the visual experience is devoted to nameless filler --unidentified machines whirring in science labs, performing vague functions. Since the hope is that technology that doesn't exist yet will one day permit the safe revival of her brain, and will one day cure her disease, more science details would help us understand how the parents made this decision. The Buddhist culture of Thailand prompts many media outlets there to question the parents' judgment, and numerous television anchors ask if the father isn't worried that freezing the dead child's brain is keeping her soul from "resting in peace," by trapping her soul and preventing reincarnation

The movie includes seemingly tangential vignettes; in one instance, young Matrix is shaved for a two-week Buddhist retreat to help him heal. A message at the end notes that the family is burying a copy of the documentary in an underground vault with the hope that when their daughter is revived, one day long after they're all gone, she'll understand how deeply she was loved. This lovely intention makes it clear that the movie is a letter to a dead child, and it explains why the film doesn't really address the needs of an audience.   

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the grief a family experiences at the loss of a child. What do you think of the decision in Hope Frozen: A Quest to Live Twice to preserve the dead little girl cryogenically? Would you make the same decision for a loved one? Why or why not?

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  • When the father is told that there is a .1% chance his daughter will ever successfully be thawed, why do you think he doesn't seem discouraged? Do you think his belief in future technology seems reasonable? Why or why not?

  • The family seems to be devoted to Buddhism. Do you think technology and religion can sometimes be at odds? Do you have any beliefs that are based more on religious thinking than on scientific thinking, or vice versa? Do you think it's okay to have faith in both religion and in science? Why or why not?

Movie details

  • In theaters: September 23, 2018
  • On DVD or streaming: September 15, 2020
  • Director: Pailin Wedel
  • Studio: Netflix
  • Genre: Documentary
  • Run time: 75 minutes
  • MPAA rating: NR
  • Last updated: September 29, 2020

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