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Sight

In Andrew Hyatt’s “Sight,” what you see is what you get. The movie is a straightforward inspirational narrative based on a true story. There are very few surprises in store or moments that stand out beyond the predictable plot points and emotional scenes that play their hand a little too heavily. Without looking up its real-life parallels, you could probably guess where things were headed. For some viewers, this predictability is like comfort food from a chain restaurant. For others, it’s the equivalent of cinematic dental work. 

In “Sight,” Dr. Ming Wang (Terry Chen) was once a young man in China with dreams of following in his father and grandfather’s footsteps into the medical profession when an uprising during the Cultural Revolution changed the course of his family’s plans. Under pressure to leave the country after the disappearance of his first love, Lili (Sara Ye), Wang applies himself to his studies, earning top spots in universities like MIT and Harvard before creating his own practice treating eye ailments in Nashville, Tennessee. In 2007, he meets the soft-spoken Kajal (Mia SwamiNathan), a young Indian orphan in the care of nuns who travels to the US in the hopes of restoring her vision after surviving devastating abuse, and with the help of Dr. Misha Bartnovsky (Greg Kinnear), tries to help her against all odds. The film alternates between Wang’s past and then-present as he reconciles his earlier losses of love and country with his limits as a doctor. 

On reflection, “Sight” is a beat-by-beat wholesome biopic built to leave its audience feeling good and inspired by its sermon. Based on Dr. Wang’s biography, From Darkness to Sight: A Journey from Hardship to Healing, the film is a meditation on faith, loss, and accepting the things one can’t change. It’s an American immigrant story that acknowledges the trauma of fleeing to a new country and how that may follow a person throughout their life. But that idea feels secondary to its overall message of finding one’s inner light in times of darkness. 

Driven by Dr. Wang’s compelling true story, “Sight” works fine as a movie on a mission from God to share a little story of grace with its audience. Chen’s performance is sometimes uneven, but his shared scenes with Kinnear as tired coworkers with different approaches to problem-solving are some of the movie’s best moments. Ben Wang, who plays Dr. Wang before his med school days, is also effective in the role of a young man lost in a sea of unrest and early heartbreak after Lili is taken from his side. However, the script, co-written by Hyatt with John Duigan and Buzz McLaughlin, moves slowly at times, almost as if wallowing in Dr. Wang’s pain in the two timelines of his story before resolving quickly to roll credits. 

While the movie is not terribly memorable, it is the latest evolution to the story of Angel Studios, the force behind “Sound of Freedom” and “Cabrini,” which also centered on a Christian (Catholic, to be specific) immigrant coming to America and helping others. While most studio branding is content with flashing a logo at the beginning of a movie and after the credits, “Sight” begins with the declaration, “This film has been approved by the Angel Guild,” a reference to the company’s membership program. During the credits, the real Dr. Wang appears to share his story and asks the audience to “pay it forward” by directing them to scan the on-screen QR code so donors can buy tickets for future moviegoers and enjoy exclusive access to deleted scenes. It felt weird for the tithe basket at the end of the movie to ask for support for the studio instead of Dr. Wang’s nonprofit sight restoration efforts after watching a movie about how his work has changed lives, but perhaps that’s more of a sign of our times.

Monica Castillo

Monica Castillo is a critic, journalist, programmer, and curator based in New York City. She is the Senior Film Programmer at the Jacob Burns Film Center and a contributor to RogerEbert.com.

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Film Credits

Sight movie poster

Sight (2024)

Rated PG-13

100 minutes

Cast

Terry Chen as Ming Wang

Greg Kinnear as Misha Bartnovsky

Fionnula Flanagan as Sister Marie

Wai Ching Ho as Alian

Raymond Ma as Zhensheng

Director

Writer

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