If there is a "lack of hope" present in the film, it would have to be the number of narratives that have passed or are still being formed that do not result in the redemptive ending of Paikea. Pai goes to great lengths to prove that she is a worthy leader of the village. While her grandfather resents her for most of the film, in the end the girl proves to be a worthy leader of the village. The element of despair that is present is that Pai is the minority. While the film celebrates how one voice can triumph in this social order, the reality is that the social order possesses a great deal of resistance to women being nothing more than second class citizens. Simultaneously, the source of the film's redemption is also the location of its despair in that this is a condition that modern women around the world must confront and endure. This becomes a critical element of despair that is evoked by the film.
I think the biggest way that this film presents a lack of hope is regarding the Maori culture of which its protagonist is a part. We are presented with a culture that is slowly and surely dying. Paikea's father has moved away from New Zealand and married outside the tribe, in spite of his father's attempts to find a wife for him from within the tribe. Paikea's uncle is nothing more than a drunken slob who is out of touch with the tribal way and it is Paikea's grandfather that is left to champion tribal traditions by himself in vain. One of the most amusing parts of the film for me is when Paikea lectures her grandmother and her friends for smoking, because of the effect it will have on their ovaries. The tribe is presented as dying out, and even though Paikea and the whales manage to instigate a new pride and rebirth of the tribe, their future is still left uncertain at the end of the film.