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The Independent Critic

Terry Chen, Greg Kinnear, Fionnula Flanagan, Ben Wang, Wai Ching Ho, Mia SwamiNathan
Andrew Hyatt
Andrew Hyatt, John Duigan, Buzz McLaughlin
Rated PG-13
103 Mins.
Angel Studios

 Movie Review: Sight 
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There's more to life than what you see...

It was one of the more unusual experiences of my life. I was sitting in a Walgreen's parking lot. I was kneeling beside my car and preparing to retrieve my wheelchair from the backseat. 

I heard someone calling. 

"Ricky," she shouted. I looked around and I saw an elderly Black woman who didn't look familiar. As I don't live in the best neighborhood, I warily responded affirmatively to a name I hadn't been called in years. 

Yet, it was my name. 

She proceeded to explain herself. She was a retired nurse. She remembered me from the day I arrived at the urban hospital where she'd been a nurse many years before, my birth with spina bifida having been far too much to handle for the rural Indiana hospital where I was born. 

I wasn't supposed to live more than three days. The odds were incredibly stacked against me from the hole in my spine to the water on my brain completely dependent on the functioning of a shunt only approved for use a couple years earlier. 

Yet, she remembered me. She remembered this infant whose "eyes sparkled with life" she said. "I just knew you would survive," she warmly proclaimed. Indeed, I have survived for 50+ years now and made more of a life for myself than anyone ever imagined possible. 

The past, sometimes no matter how challenging, leads us to our miracles. 

And so it is with writer/director Andrew Hyatt's warm and inspiring Sight, a Memorial Day weekend release from Angel Studios based upon From Darkness to Sight, the autobiography of Dr. Ming Wang, a Chinese immigrant turned renowned eye surgeon who harnesses the pain of his own past on his path toward becoming a brilliant eye surgeon based in Nashville, TN, who has performed over 55,000 procedures and founded The Wang Foundation for Sight Restoration, a 501c(3) non-profit charity that has helped people from over 40 states and 55 countries with all sight restoration surgeries performed free of charge. 

Similarly, Dr. Wang has also co-founded another 501c(3) called the Common Ground Network, an organization dedicated to helping people find, you guessed it, common ground and solutions to problems in order to achieve more success and happiness. 

Dr. Wang's life story is one that is practically tailor-made for cinema and it's found the perfect home with the faith-inspired, heartfelt folks behind Angel Studios and their lovely Angel Guild. 

Sight stars Terry Chen (Almost Famous, Falling) as the adult Dr. Wang as he's introduced to young Kajal (Mia SwamiNathan). Kajal's story is tragic and has led to her blindness, though Dr. Wang becomes fiercely determined to do whatever he can for her. Working alongside Dr. Misha Bartnovsky (Academy Award nominee and Emmy Winner Greg Kinnear), Dr. Wang developed a remarkable technological advance that has helped restore vision to thousands. 

Sight is the kind of film we've come to expect from Angel Studios, a film built upon a foundation of faith yet also rich with humanity and emotionally honest. The film picked up the Best Premiere, Narrative Feature prize at my hometown Heartland International Film Festival in 2023 and is now set to inspire audiences across the nation with a story that is riveting from beginning to end. The film alternates between past and present as we learn about Ming Wang's childhood with loving, well educated parents whose lives are profoundly changed upon the arrival of the Cultural Revolution, an uprising led by Mao Zedong that lasted from 1966 until his death in 1976. It threatened to derail Ming's hopes of becoming a physician, though it would be in the years following the uprising that he would flee Communist China for the U.S. where he graduated from MIT and Harvard. 

Chen is a revelation as Dr. Wang, embodying his essential goodness and compassion while not minimizing his years of trauma. While Chen has been around Hollywood for years, his work here as Dr. Wang should, if justice is served, have Hollywood knocking even more passionately on his door. It's a wonderful turn and such a refreshing portrayal of a Chinese-American in a world of oft-portrayed stereotypes. In fact, quite honestly, Sight is refreshingly devoid of stereotypes throughout. I was completely charmed by young Ming's (played as an eight-year-old by Jayden Zhang and as a teen by Ben Wang) beautifully portrayed parents and a childhood filled with rich, fully developed characters. 

Fellow hoosier Greg Kinnear is also an absolute gem here as Dr. Bartnovsky. I will say until the day I day that Kinnear is one of our most underappreciated actors. He's one of those actors who makes nearly every film he's in a better film. He does the same here with just the right hint of humor, humanity, and compassionate gravitas. Kinnear and Chen together are sublime. 

Among the supporting players, wonderful Irish actress Fionnula Flanagan is a joy as Sister Marie, whose care for Kajal is filled with warmth, dignity, and absolute faith. Natasha Mumba is also absolutely perfect as Ruth. With a predominantly Asian and Asian-American cast, I'd be remiss to not mention wonderful performances by Donald Heng as young Zhensheng, Leanne Wang as young Alian, and Danni Wang as Anle among others. 

Sean Philip Johnson's original score is one of quiet warmth, dignity, and resilience with unforgettable emotional rhythms. Michael Balfry's lensing for the film amplifies the film's emotional rhythms without ever becoming overtly manipulative. Likewise, Chris August's production design enhances the film's sense of warmth and humanity and, in certain scenes during the uprising, the overwhelming sense of loss and uncertainty. Nicole Swan's costume design is wonderfully intuitive and enhances the sense of common ground we feel with these characters. 

Sight is just a lovely film, perhaps my favorite yet from Angel Studios, though I'm aware I seem to say that with each subsequent film. It's the kind of film that resonates emotionally yet satisfies intellectual. Sight is based upon a true story and actually feels like it is a true story. It inspires because we feel that sense of the human spirit triumphing and the wonder of lives being changed forever. 

There's more to life than what you see, though perhaps if there's one grand lesson above all in Sight it's that when we find common ground our vision of a better world for everyone becomes crystal clear. 

Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic