Review – Sight (2023)

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Overview

Synopsis A successful Nashville doctor reflects on his past and faith as he's challenged with one of the most difficult medical cases of his career.

Length 1 Hour 43 Minutes

Release Date May 24, 2024

 

Rating PG-13

Distribution Angel Studios

Directing Andrew Hyatt

Writing Andrew Hyatt, John Duigan, Buzz McLaughlin

Composition Sean Philip Johnson

Starring Terry Chen, Greg Kinnear, Danni Wang, Raymond Ma, Ben Wang, Jayden Zhang, Wai Ching Ho, Fionnula Flanagan

Angel Studios continues to be one of the most interesting and successful Christian film studios around. The Chosen remains one of the most popular TV shows among American Evangelicals and Catholics. The Sound of Freedom is one of the most successful (and controversial) Christian films of all time at the box office. Their smaller films like Cabrini and The Shift are ambitious and solid works, with their upcoming films like Bonhoeffer, Homestead, and The Sound of Hope looking like promising inspirational stories.

It was thus fascinating and surprising when I learned this past February that Angel Studios had purchased the distribution rights of a biopic of a man who I had personally met while working as a healthcare journalist in Nashville, Tennessee.

Content Guide

Violence/Scary Images: The opening scene is of a young girl being blinded by her mother. The story flashes back to the horrors of the Chinese Cultural Revolution. There are scenes of medical procedures being performed.
Language/Crude Humor: Limited to none.
Drug/Alcohol References: Casual drinking at a bar.
Sexual Content: Two Christian characters meetup at a bar and slowly fall in love; nothing is depicted.
Spiritual Content: The film is a Christian film which explores the spiritual significance of sight and healing.
Other Negative Content: None.
Positive Content: Inspirational themes of faith, sight and healing.

Review

I have a strange relationship with Ming Wang. When I moved to Nashville to become a journalist, he was one of the first people who made an explicit effort to speak to me. And yet, that kindness has always made me suspicious. 

Three years ago, I was covering a local event in the West End, and Wang had set up a booth near the door, handing out pamphlets and copies of his autobiography From Darkness To Sight: A Journey From Hardship to Healing. My brief interest in his booth immediately aroused his excitement that a journalist was interested in him. He approached me, handed me signed copies of his books, offered to take a picture with me, and asked me if I’d like to attend an early screening of a movie about his life, which I didn’t take him up on.  

Ming Wang is the epitome of the American dream; having survived the Chinese Cultural Revolution, moved to America, became a skilled Yale-educated eye surgeon, converted to Christianity, and started his own business. Behind former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (who wrote the foreword to his memoir), he is easily Nashville’s second most famous doctor. 

But living in Nashville—and seeing his face on billboards every morning as I drove downtown—gave me the sense he was too invested in his own hype. My other journalist colleagues, while having little negative to say about him, also agreed he had a reputation for being nominally opportunistic and defensive, as though he had something he needed to prove to others. 

This was the context in which I went into Angel Studios’ most recent film Sight, which adapts his memoir into an inspirational faith-based biopic. Seeing the studio that produced The Chosen and The Sound of Freedom distribute Wang’s biopic was almost surreal. I was afraid the film would exhibit false humility, focusing too much on Wang than the history and issues that formed his incredible life—particularly given that he was an executive producer of the film. 

The film is set in 2007, with Wang having already become a successful and famous physician who draws the attention of the media as he takes on exotic medical cases. When a nun brings a child from India to Nashville who her mother purposely blinded, Wang begins to feel haunted by his childhood in 1960s China, where he watched his friends and family suffer under the Chinese Cultural Revolution. 

Facing one of the most difficult cases of his career, he begins to feel like curing this girl’s blindness would redeem him from his survivor’s guilt and honor the sacrifices of his late loved ones. Along the way, the lonely Dr. Wang begins to find himself falling in love with a lovely Japanese bartender he meets after saving a man from dying of choking, all while he has flashbacks to his childhood in China and his college experiences in America. 

After the film, Wang himself appears to plug Angel Studios’ pay-it-forward program and talk about the Wang Foundation’s work. As he says, Sight is a story about learning to see in more ways than one. He says his spiritual journey played an important role in helping him come to terms with his past and find hope in the future, allowing him to make medical innovations to improve thousands of lives. 

There is certainly a great deal to appreciate with Sight, as far as your stomach for sentimental inspirational storytelling goes. While I cannot say the film fully assuaged my concerns, it is still a nominally successful biopic in its own right. Wang, portrayed in the film by Terry Chen, definitely comes off as brilliant and attractive, but also sufficiently stressed and beleaguered that he still feels like a grounded human. Its depiction of the evils of the Chinese Cultural Revolution stands well alongside Netflix’s Three Body Problem at the moment in its excellent reminder of the horrors of Marxist extremism and revolutionary violence. 

Thankfully, it manages to be a movie about things larger than its subject matter. The movie’s slickness and sentimentalism come off as slightly self-aggrandizing, but not more so than the other works Angel Studios has produced—which are usually sold to the public as an opportunity to address a moral evil in society by seeing a movie. Cabrini was promoted as an International Women’s Day tie-in, and Sight is being promoted as part of Asian Heritage Month, with both releases appealing to diversity as much as The Sound of Freedom appealed to raising awareness for human trafficking to sell tickets. The Sound of Hope is receiving early screenings to tie into Juneteenth.

Regardless of the circumstances surrounding the film, Sight is a solid watch in a genre that all too frequently produces schlock. While Sight descends into occasional melodrama and tangents that serve more biographical than thematic importance, the film’s core and message survive with an earnest heart. Angel Studios continues to be skilled at distributing solid films for a ravenous underserved audience. It continues to show its cultural savviness and ability to thrive where prior studios like PureFlix fell short, even if one grows weary of some of its excesses.

Positives

+ Solid Performances
+ Decent Inspirational Story

Negatives

- Highly Sentimental Story
- Strange Behind-the-Scenes Story

The Bottom Line

Sight is a strange film for me personally, especially as someone who doesn't necessarily enjoy inspirational story movies, but it is solid in ways I feared it wouldn't be. It continues Angel Studio's strength as a studio capable of selecting solid stories to distribute.

 

7

Tyler Hummel

Tyler Hummel is a Nashville-based freelance journalist, a College Fix Fellow, and a member of the Music City Film Critics Association. He has contributed to Geeks Under Grace, The Living Church, North American Anglican, Baptist News Global, The Tennessee Register, Angelus News, The Dispatch, Voeglin View, Hollywood in Toto, Law and Liberty, The Federalist, Main Street Nashville, Leaders Media, and the Catholic Herald of Milwaukee.

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