Paradise: Hope is the last in a trilogy of films by Austrian writer and director Ulrich Seidl. In the first (Paradise: Love) Teresa, a middle-aged desperately lonely woman, looks for love on her vacation to Kenya where sex tourism is in vogue. In the second (Paradise: Faith), her sister, Anna Maria explores her Catholic devotion during some time off, which is interrupted by the return of her handicapped husband who is a Muslim.
Paradise: Hope focuses on Teresa's 13-year-old daughter Melanie (Melanie Lenz) who is sent by her mother to a summer "diet camp." There, along with 16 other overweight teenagers, she is given a mix of exercise, healthy food, and counseling about diet. Although their parents have high hopes for the benefits of this program, the teens themselves evidence little interest in losing weight or committing to a change of lifestyle. At one point, we see them chanting: "If you're happy and you know it, clap your fat!"
In the girls dorm, they talk about their parents, food cravings, their secret erotic feelings, and pubic shavings. Melanie makes friends with 16-year-old Verena (Verena Lehbauer) who is more sexually confident than she is. They escape from their daily regimen by sneaking out and attending a dance club. Much to her surprise, the shy Melanie finds herself sexually attracted to the camp's middle-aged doctor (Joseph Lorenz) who responds to her interest in him with his own flirtations.
Throughout this exploration of a teenage girl's first crush, we feel nervous about where this intimate and secretive relationship is headed. But Seidl swerves away from a downer conclusion. Melanie is as insecure about her body as her mother. Although both of them are looking for love in the wrong places, they at least have been brave enough to confront the sexual yearnings which are at the core of their being.