Where Hope Grows Review

Overall Rating

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Leans toward a biblical worldview


Ranking Categories:
Overall Faith and/or Biblical Relevance 3.5stars.png
Faith-compatible Depiction of Characters and Character Relationships 3.5stars.png
Faith-compatible Depiction of Situations 3.5stars.png
Family Viewing Suitability 3.5stars.png
Entertainment Value 3.5stars.png
view our criteria

Summary

Featuring the first lead role for an actor with Down syndrome, the theatrical release of WHERE HOPE GROWS on May 15th tells the story of Cal, a former major league baseball player who struggles to live life “between the dash” until he meets Produce, a grocery store clerk who shows him the way to faith, hope and recovery.

Distributed by Roadside Attractions (BELLA, GRACE UNPLUGGED) and both written and directed by Chris Dowling (THE REMAINING), WHERE HOPE GROWS introduces David DeSanctis as Produce, and features Kristoffer Polaha (ATLAS SHRUGGED: WHO IS JOHN GALT?) as Cal, Danica McKellar (The Wonder Years) as Susan, Alan Powell (THE SONG) as Frank, Brooke Burns (Baywatch) as Amy, Billy Zabka (THE KARATE KID) as Milt, McKaley Miller (Hart of Dixie) as Katie, and Michael Grant (The Secret Life of the American Teenager) as Colt.   

As a family drama with strong faith messages in the context of some mature themes—all without being preachy—WHERE HOPE GROWS will appeal to faith-driven and secular audiences alike. 


Overall Faith and/or Biblical Relevance

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Although a clear Gospel message is not presented in WHERE HOPE GROWS, the Bible as the source of hope, happiness, redemption and recovery is central to the storyline. From the opening scenes with Produce getting ready to go to his grocery store job to the final emergency room scenes, Christian faith is respected and shown to be the way out of the life’s messy failures and brokenness. Here, the pressures associated with alcoholism, premarital sex, bullying, depression and people with special needs are realistically presented.  Along the way, there are scenes set in church and AA meetings, and a pastor teaches that we’re called to make our lives count—so that the “dash” between our birth and death dates reflects a life lived fully and abundantly.


Faith-compatible Depiction of Characters and Character Relationships

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Although many of the characters in WHERE HOPE GROWS are underdeveloped in the storyline, the primary relationships between Cal and Produce and Cal and his seventeen-year-old daughter, Katie, are handled well and depict many real-life struggles associated with alcoholism and special needs. With Produce, Cal sees someone who by all measures should be a very unhappy person, but instead is full of joy and faith-driven happiness. This intrigues Cal, a man who had everything going for him, but now finds himself down and out. The narrative of redemption and hope that comes from Cal’s deepening relationship with Produce is sweet, heartfelt and transformative.  

With Katie, Cal is shown to love her more than anything else. Yet his despair from having failed to achieve his potential in the big leagues has led to a downward spiral of addiction and unemployment—negatively impacting their relationship. While Katie loves her father and wants a deeper and more dependable relationship with him, she is at times disrespectful and dismissive of him and finds herself perilously close to making some of the same mistakes that her dad made when he was her age.  And while her arrogant boyfriend, Colt, seems to have it all together, their relationship comes to an end when he first tries to manipulate her into having sex—before eventually forcing himself on her in an unlikely public setting that borders on attempted rape.  Colt’s selfishness is further depicted as he threatens Produce to not tell the manager of the grocery store where they both work about the liquor he has stolen. When Colts is fired for his action, he beats up Produce.

Beyond these key relationships, WHERE HOPE GROWS depicts a positive and godly relationship between Cal and Amy, an attractive woman he meets at the grocery store and then later at the AA meetings and in church. And his relationship with his drinking buddy, Milt, experiences forgiveness and healing. Finally, the sexual tension between Milt’s wife, Susan, and their evicted friend, Frank, who comes to stay with them temporarily, plays out with tragic consequences.       


Faith-compatible Depiction of Situations

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With themes like addiction and recovery central to the storyline of WHERE HOPE GROWS, there are some situations depicted that could give some faith-driven viewers pause. For example, there are scenes involving sexual situations, bars, drinking and driving, bullying, and mild language. However, the Bible is filled with graphic and messy situations that reflect the sin-addled world we live in, and WHERE HOPE GROWS successfully navigates real-life challenges in ways that repeatedly point to the hope that is found only in God’s Word.

Beyond this, WHERE HOPE GROWS depicts situations where characters courageously stand up to bullies and correct those who use derogatory terms for people with special needs. Here, it’s encouraging to see a character with Down syndrome shown in a positive, heroic light—and with dignity and respect.  And various scenes set in church, AA meetings and the hospital show characters reading the Bible and praying. Significantly, when Katie asks Cal about prayer, Cal tells her that he doesn’t think that God is a genie that grants our wishes.  


Family Viewing Suitability

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Rated PG-13 for thematic issues involving drinking, teen sexuality, brief language and an accident scene, WHERE HOPE GROWS is suitable for adults and teens with parental approval. Although a higher level of maturity is appropriate for some content presented, WHERE HOPE GROWS points to important biblical lessons on redemption, restoration, healing, the value of all human life, and respect for those who are different—topics that will resonate with faith-driven audiences.  


Entertainment Value

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While WHERE HOPE GROW suffers from some slow pacing and uneven character development, it’s a well-made film with high production values, an uplifting musical score, solid writing, and strong acting from the lead characters—particularly David DeSanctis as Produce. Here, as the sweet and often poignant bond between Cal and Produce unfolds, WHERE HOPE GROWS gently teaches that while life isn’t always fair and we don’t always get what we want, the secret to happiness is the hope found in the pages of the Bible.  


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