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DOCPOINT 2020: HOPE FROZEN

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I’m not a parent. 

I don’t have the gene that makes me desire a living legacy. I’ve never wanted to be a parent, and I’m not good with children.

HOPE FROZEN deals with the overwhelming love for a child, and the unspeakable pain of losing them before their time. Its greatest achievement is communicating these emotions so clearly, that even someone like myself might have an inkling how any of this feels. Filled with heartbreak and hope, it is a deeply moving experience no matter who you are.

After the loss of their two-year-old daughter, Einz, the patriarch of a family in Bangkok turns his hopes toward cryonics. Powered by a vague hope for resurrection, the family agrees to have Einz cryogenically frozen. Following them through the years immediately afterwards, HOPE FROZEN paints a nuanced and sensitive portrait of paralyzing grief and the necessity to have something, anything to cling to. 

Almost unbearably personal, HOPE FROZEN is an intimate work of graceful beauty. Bearing everything for the camera, the grieving family opens up about their hopes and fears at every turn, even allowing us a glimpse into their personal doubts of the entire endeavour. Science, after all, is not infallible; it’s a far more mundane procedure still in its infancy than anyone expected. As we tour the facility for the first time, director Pailin Wedel focuses on the reactions of everyone present. Their tempered expectations and dreams of reuniting in this life are heartbreaking to watch.

The documentary achieves a finely tuned balancing act. Neither scientific nor spiritual, it allows viewpoints for both while keeping the focus squarely on the humane. As the family seeks answers where there are none, they each turn to different solutions to cope with their immeasurable loss. The father buries himself in research of a field he vaguely understands; a son seek comfort in Buddhism, another follows his father in science. Very soon it becomes clear that the parents, and potentially the sibling too, will not be alive when and if Einz is revived. They record video testimonies for her, including this documentary, which will be sealed for Einz. We glimpse their lives at home, where the memory of Einz is everywhere. As if time had stopped the day her heart did. 

With great eloquence, HOPE FROZEN allows us to grieve with them. But the question lingers; will their grief only postpone another tragedy as their daughter becomes an orphan of time? Is saying goodbye the more humane option in this case?

HOPE FROZEN doesn’t offer answers, because there are none. During the course of just over an hour, it compassionately serves as an archivist, sending one family’s hopes and dreams as an echo into the future. Creating a time capsule of love through the ages in an act of desperation and faith.

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