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Movie Review: New Hope
by Melinda Ledman, Contributing Writer

new hopeIf I didn't know better, I would say that New Hope was written by two completely different writers for two completely different audiences. Of course, it only has one writer, but what happens in this film is a bit of an anomaly. The method of storytelling changes depending on whose story is being told.

New Hope is primarily the story of a teenager named Michael (Samuel Davis) whose father gets a job in a new city at the most inconvenient time, Michael's senior year. Not only does he have to fit in, he also has to prove himself (from scratch) to a new basketball team that he doesn't want to play for. To make matters worse, the angry and violent star player, Lucas (Ben Davies), is still recovering from the suicide death of his best friend and basketball partner. As Michael takes his place on the court and strikes up a romance with the lovely Jasmine Stone (Perry Frost), Lucas finds an outlet for his anger. Unfortunately, that outlet is Michael.

Michael's father Alex (Will Schwab), the new pastor in town, ends up counseling the parents of the student who died. They talk through the many questions and conflicts that arise as a result of the death of a loved one. And though their story occasionally crosses Michael's, the two storylines are for the most part separate in both plot events and style.

The adults' storyline is almost totally flat, with mini-sermons and literal counseling sessions. Without dynamic personalities and choices, the characters are poorly developed and the actors have a hard time infusing life into them. Their story becomes a virtual conscience, like the voice of Jimminy Cricket in Pinocchio, telling the audience how to think, feel and act. Some people like this style of storytelling, and it could be argued that they were using a technique called "framing," where a smaller story frames or mirrors the main one. I can also see where parents grieving the loss of a child could learn something and be encouraged. But for me, this whole storyline was just badly done. Even if they were trying to use framing, it still boiled down to on-the-nose sermons that most audiences don't appreciate.

The teen storyline, on the other hand, is completely opposite. It is written the way that great stories are told on film. Rather than spoon-feeding the audience, the teenagers say less and do more. Their relationships are marked by complexity, realistic conversations, and more questions than answers. The characters grow and change, and they are challenged by one another. Their storyline also uses visual techniques, which is what sets film apart from books, plays and radio programs. So, rather than telling what a character is thinking, a good film uses symbolism and body language. And this film does that. This style of storytelling challenges the audience to think and figure out for themselves what the movie means. I loved most of the scenes with the teenagers.

So, I guess that explains why my emotions were all over the place with this movie, cheering one moment and shaking my head the next. It did so much wrong, and yet it did so much exactly right. I'm not really sure how to grade this film. I wanted to love it, but the poor acting, overt lessons, and some of the overdone characters almost ruined it for me. What I did love was New Hope's willingness to tackle the issue of having non-Christian friends (and girlfriends). The film gives the supporting characters a depth of personal darkness and shows how Christians really can be a light in that darkness. I also liked Michael's quiet but confident character. It's refreshing to see that in a main character. All in all, this is a 50/50, like/dislike movie. If you watch it, leave some feedback on the site. I'd love to hear what you thought of it!

Talking Points with Kids:

Ages 0-5: Not really appropriate for this age demographic. But if they do watch, you could ask: Why was Lucas so angry? Do you think that people who are sad sometimes show their sadness with anger? How did Michael help him get over his sadness?

Age 6-14: Probably not appropriate for this age group either, but just in case: Michael's sister was constantly ignored or sent out of the room when "adult" conversations were taking place. Does that ever happen to you? Do you think her parents were trying to be mean or didn't appreciate her thoughts? What else might they have been thinking?

Ages 15+: Teen suicide is a huge problem. In the story, everyone described Chase's actions as "isolating himself" from them before he killed himself. What could you do if you see someone isolating themselves and appearing depressed? When it came to the offer of sex, Michael wasn't timid or insecure at all. He responded without hesitation. How do you think he did that so smoothly? When Michael moved, he didn't care about basketball anymore. Why not? How does moving to a new place give you a chance to do what you really love? What do you see yourself doing differently when you leave for college?

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