“Where Hope Grows” (2015)
Calvin (Kristoffer Polaha) isn’t doing very well. He is raising his 16-year old daughter (McKaley Miller) by himself, and she is dating a boy who is much too old for her. Calvin, a former professional baseball player who lost his career to panic attacks, doesn’t have a job and drinks way too much. Calvin doesn’t know how to communicate with his daughter, misses appointments, and meetings, and he has barely escaped getting a DUI on multiple occasions.
Calvin finds himself at the local grocery store, stocking up on liquor when he starts up a conversation with a young man named Produce (David DeSanctis). Produce knows the store forwards and backward, and is the hardest worker the grocery has. There is one thing that makes Produce unique, he has Down syndrome.
Much to the dismay of his friends and his daughter, Calvin starts hanging out more and more with Produce. While at times the relationship is father/son like most of the time, Calvin sees Produce as his equal. In fact, Calvin starts seeing Produce as almost his life guide. Produce seems always to have a phrase or philosophy on how to live life to its fullest. If he isn’t careful, Calvin just might learn a thing or two from Produce. There is only one thing that gets Produce down; he is convinced that he isn’t smart enough to win employee of the month.
Writer/Director Chris Dowling has brought us a film with lots of heart. It’s a movie about friendship, love, forgiveness and redemption. At the center of the film is the budding relationship between Produce and Calvin, who become almost inseparable as the movie goes on. The film tackles a number of tough subjects, a little unusual for a movie that has its roots in Christian film. The lead character is an unapologetic alcoholic. His daughter is deciding when to give up her virginity. There is also infidelity, and then there is the treatment of Produce himself, who has to deal with prejudice and judgment at almost every turn.
I liked Polaha in the role of the tortured and troubled Calvin, creating a character that makes a lot of mistakes, human and at times likable. He has a graceful, easy presence on screen and works well with both Miller, playing his daughter and DeSanctis as the lovable Produce. This is DeSanctis’s film as he steals every scene that he is in. From his first appearance on screen, you root for Produce and DeSanctis’s lovable presence and winning smile makes each scene he is in a delight to watch. There are some great scenes between DeSanctis and Polaha, as their banter is witty and amusing. There’s also a nice contrast between the world-weary Polaha’s character, and the glass is half-full world of DeSanctis’s character.
There are some excellent performances in the supporting cast. McKaley Miller holds her own with Polaha playing the daughter that too often has to become the adult in the relationship with her father. William Zabka plays Calvin’s best friend, and he has a couple of well-done scenes with Polaha. A couple of other notables in the cast are Danica McKellar, playing the wife of Calvin’s best friend and Brooke Burns, who plays a possible love interest for Calvin.
Dowling’s direction is never heavy-handed, and he gets a great performance out of DeSanctis. While a little predictable, the film is an enjoyable experience as it examines how faith affects different people in distinctive ways and how relationships can make or break us. It’s a message of hope, where if we work hard enough, we can find the right path to a happy and healthy life. You will look back and remember how much you enjoyed DeSanctis’s performance. My Rating: Full Price
My movie rating system from Best to Worst: 1). I Would Pay to See it Again 2). Full Price 3). Bargain Matinee 4). Cable 5). You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again
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