Review – The Sound of Hope: The Story of Possum Trot

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Overview

Synopsis A small Texas Baptist community makes a difference by adopting 77 troubled children and helping to raise them through serious challenges.

Length 2 hours, 7 minutes

Release Date June 19, 2024 (Early Release), July 4, 2024 (Wide Release)

 

Rating PG-13

Distribution Angel Studios

Directing Joshua Weigel

Writing Joshua Weigel, Rebekah Weigel

Composition Sean Johnson

Starring Elizabeth Mitchell, Demetrius Grosse, Nika King

Angel Studios continues to be the master of marketing Christian films in the post-PureFlix world. Despite the ongoing secular stigma toward “faith-based” films like God’s NOT Dead and Fireproof, Angel Studios has distributed multiple successes through cleverly timed marketing pushes, political activism, and pay-it-forward programs. With the notable exception of The Sound of Freedom becoming 2023’s most controversial summer blockbuster, Angel Studios has thrived by tying its films into holidays like International Women’s Day and Asian-American History Month.

Their newest film is being advertised using all of these strategies. It is promoted by a theatrical partnership with partisan outlet The Daily Wire, it is being released on both Juneteenth and Independence Day, and its title echoes the one that created so much ink for the studio, having originally just been titled Possum Trot. The studio appears to be positioning the film to capture conservative evangelicals and diverse secular audiences through broad appeals to both.

Content Guide

Violence/Scary Images: Several scenes of domestic violence. There is a fatal shooting offscreen. A woman throws a glass in an argument and it shatters. A knife is found under a woman’s bed. A disobedient girl is spanked repeatedly.
Language/Crude Humor: Some coarse language throughout the film.
Drug/Alcohol References: Some references to drug use.
Sexual Content: Nothing is depicted but one of the girls is said to have been sexually assaulted in her past.
Spiritual Content: The film is explicitly Christian, following a Baptist community’s trials with a deep focus on faith and Scripture.
Other Negative Content: None. 
Positive Content: Themes of community, faith, resilience, and healing.

Review

Angel Studios is a company I come back to a lot. This isn’t always because I love their films. The cumulative quality of His Only Son, The Shift, Cabrini, Sight, and The Sound of Freedom shakes out awkwardly, even if one admits that this is a better run of faith-based films than any studio has produced in recent history. I return to them a lot because their movies spark interesting and bizarre cultural conversations, from Sound of Freedom bizarrely grossing $250 million to Cabrini sparking a dialogue about the secular feminist appeal of a Catholic saint.

Angel Studios does interesting, strange things and provides plenty to talk about (apparently including signing the Sound of Freedom director to a 10-year contract by buying him a large house). The company now appears to be attempting to make the Sound of Freedom‘s lightning strike twice, both by pairing up with a conservative film studio to “spread the word” among the audience that embraced their prior film, and by early releasing their film about the accomplishments of Black Christians in Texas on Juneteenth to tie into the holiday.

Once again, the dialogue around The Sound of Hope: The Story of Possum Trot leans into culture war battles to draw interest. However, I don’t think that is the most interesting aspect of the film in this instance. It isn’t a very partisan film. Besides having been executive-produced by Black Panther star and Christian activist Letitia Wright—who drew heat for anti-vax statements during the pandemic—the movie stands on its own both as a fascinating work of Black Christian art and a sweet inspirational film.

The movie is based on the true story of a small Missionary Baptist community in rural East Texas that accomplished a minor miracle within the adoption system between 1998 and 2003. Following the untimely death of the Martin family’s matriarch, Donna Martin, her reverend husband felt compelled to make a greater impact in the world. After taking in an abused troubled child, they inspire their entire religious community of 22 families to follow suit in adopting dozens of the most undesirable troubled children in the adoption system. This sparks a journey of trust and faith as the community finds itself swamped with trials, financial strain, and domestic stress—ultimately making a difference in the lives of 77 children.

The real-life story of Possum Trot is a remarkable story of strength through adversity and the power of religious communities to face the worst challenges of life. The film captures this beautifully in its best moments. Despite a slow introduction and an overreliance on narration-laden montages, The Sound of Hope crafts several powerful scenes that capture the highs and lows of Possum Trot’s resilience and faith.

The film’s most dramatic moments come between the Martin family and Terri, their second adopted child with one of the worst histories in the adoption system. Her volatile actions prove some of the film’s most tense scenes, including its emotional climax. However, these scenes are peppered throughout the larger story. They make up the film’s most dramatic subplot, but there are several simultaneous threads with less impact.

Santa Clause star Elizabeth Mitchell is also on hand as the film’s largest celebrity presence, standing in as the representative of the adoption system who enthusiastically embraces the Martin family’s efforts as a means of unburdening the system. Her role though is slightly disappointing, as her purpose in the film is to be a realistic character in the face of the Martin family’s remarkable faith, but spends much of the film as more of a cheerleader. While it would be wrong to cast this role as an antagonist, it suggests the film’s sentimentality is too overbearing and lacks a clear dramatic conflict.

As with many Angel Studios films, the movie’s sentiment does carry it decently far. As Letitia Wright mentioned in a press release, “I was told about the Martin family in Possum Trot, Texas, a few years ago. Immediately, I was moved by their compassion and love towards helping children within the foster care system, I found a similar feeling of purpose and desire for change alongside the director and writer who have known the Martins for many years. This film will connect to hearts all over the world and will bring real impact and change for children not only in America but across the world.”

The Sound of Hope certainly wants to inspire you, as any solid inspirational drama does. Possum Trot has a remarkable story to tell, and it has been told before in numerous books and movies. The epilogue’s call to action to help the 100,000 children in the U.S. foster care system is as much a timely reminder as any. It’ll be curious to see how the modestly successful film is received by its wider audience, or which audiences will be most drawn to support it in line with Angel Studios’ marketing strategies.

Positives

+ Solid performances
+ Good moral and themes

Negatives

- Weaker introductory scenes
- Over reliance on montage and narration
- Heavily sentimental

The Bottom Line

The Sound of Hope probably isn't as cutting or impactful as it could be, but manages to survive through strong sentiment and a wholesome call to action.

 

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.

1 Comments

  1. Courtney Floyd on June 22, 2024 at 12:32 pm

    Hey, Tyler. As a current foster mom with a somewhat troubled kiddo, I’m so excited to watch this movie! I previously stated on your other review that I shy away from Christian movies, but this looks like a great one to share with my daughter. Thanks for reviewing these with an open mind and letting us know how schlocky they’re going to be but also how well they measure up.

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