Hot Docs 2017: Hope
Director Alan Zweig follows up his 2015 feature Hurt with another look at the life of former runner Steve Fonyo, focused around his attempts to rehabilitate himself following a life-threatening incident.
For those who have not seen or heard of Zweig's previous film, Hurt looked at several months in the life of Fonyo, a once nationally recognized and celebrated figure who, despite having one amputated leg, famously completed the cross-country run that Terry Fox was never able to. Fonyo resides in poverty, with a long history of drug and substance abuse, and while he ruminates on his past and desire to change, a deadly home invasion at the end of the film leaves him hospitalized in a coma.
Hope picks right up from where Hurt ended, showing Fonyo enter a rehabilitation program to overcome his addiction to crystal meth, while also attempting to relocate from the crime-stricken community of Surrey, British Columbia and show his girlfriend that he can change. Given the note that Hurt ended on, it's great that Zweig decided to continue the story, and as evidenced by the title, show viewers that its primary character can still have some chance for redemption. While this film feels like a B-side to what came before, it's hard to deny the emotional power at hand. Fonyo spends much time talking about the decisions and paths that caused him to end up this way, and while he is deep in the past like in Hurt, his outlook this time following his attack is of a more focused and truthful demeanor.
It's hard to say whether Hope will have much appeal outside of Canadian audiences and those who know Fonyo's story from either growing up around it or seeing Hurt, but what Zweig has done here is a tremendous character piece.