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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Hope Springs Eternal is a dramedy about a teenager named Hope (Mia Rose Frampton) who's been living with terminal cancer for years and then discovers she's miraculously in remission. But living without an "expiration date" wasn't in Hope's plans, so she pretends to still be sick to maintain the identity -- and special considerations -- she's become used to. That premise might seem off-putting, especially to viewers who've lived with or lost someone to cancer, but Hope definitely comes to terms with the consequences of her deceit and learns how lucky she is to be able to plan for a future she never thought she'd have. There's not much in the way of language ("wanker" is about the worst of it) or sex (Hope has a boyfriend, but they only exchange a couple of hugs and one brief kiss on the cheek), but there are a couple of potentially disturbing scenes of teens in the hospital and of popular girls picking on and pushing students. And in the end, the movie does promote positive messages about life, friendship, and parent-teen communication.
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What's the story?
HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL follows terminally ill teen Hope Gracin (Mia Rose Frampton), who's been living with cancer for years and uses social media to amplify her story about being a "kid with cancer." She has a devoted single mom (Beth Lacke) and two loving best friends: Sarah (Juliette Angelo), who also has cancer, and Seth (Stony Blyden), who may have a secret crush on her. Hope also has Kai (Beau Brooks), a cool Australian boyfriend she "brought back" from her Make-A-Wish trip Down Under, and a considerable number of well-wishers. At school, Hope benefits from special considerations from both teachers and fellow students, including popular queen bee Zoe (Lauren Giraldo). But everything changes when Hope's oncologist tells her that her cancer is miraculously gone; she's in remission and can live a cancer-free life. Instead of being ecstatic about the news, Hope decides to conceal it from everyone except her mom, Sarah, and Seth. Because having cancer had its perks, and Hope isn't quite ready to let them go.
Is it any good?
Despite centering on the very iffy idea that anyone would rather die from cancer than deal with the uncertainty of life, this teen dramedy ultimately turns clichés around. Frampton, who's reminiscent of Hayden Panettiere, is a likable enough performer in the central role. Even as Hope begins to make ridiculously bad choices -- like telling a friend that her cancer has gotten worse rather than been cured, or getting a mani-pedi instead of studying when she's failing several classes -- audiences will still root for her to face the consequences of her actions and get a second chance. It's particularly difficult to watch Hope interact with her best friend, Sarah, who's also dying from cancer. Sarah, like fellow bestie Seth, can't believe that Hope is somehow upset that she's no longer terminal. "It's like cancer is all about the attention for you," Sarah tells Hope in a much-needed confrontation scene. Meanwhile, Sarah has to deal with not finishing school, never having been kissed, and the looming possibility of death.
As much as audiences will want to yell at Hope for her idiocy, the script makes sure that Hope ultimately realizes that "cancer perks" all pale in comparison to being healthy and whole. Hope learns all the lessons you'd imagine from a tween-targeted drama. Yes, the supporting actors can be a bit hammy -- the mean girls and Kai in particular are a bit over the top -- and the entire production seems more like a Nickelodeon or Disney special than a theatrical release. But Hope Springs Eternal has just enough heart to work, especially for its target audience.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the popularity of "sick teens/kids" stories. What are some examples of the genre? How does Hope Springs Eternal compare?
What do you think of Hope's question about whether it's better to die young and noticed or live like a "loser"? Does that mean anything? Why does Hope glamorize dying young?
- In theaters: August 10, 2018
- On DVD or streaming: September 11, 2018
- Cast: Mia Rose Frampton, Stony Blyden, Juliette Angelo
- Director: Jack C. Newell
- Studio: Samuel Goldwyn Films
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: High School
- Character Strengths: Communication
- Run time: 88 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: thematic material and some language
- Last updated: April 24, 2020
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