Review: Sight — Movies for the Rest of Us with Bill Newcott

Sight dramatizes the true story of Dr. Ming Wang, who survived China’s Cultural Revolution, escaped to the United States, and became a world-renowned eye surgeon.

Sight (Angel Studios)

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⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Rating: PG-13

Run Time: 1 hour 40 minutes

Stars: Greg Kinnear, Terry Chen

Writers: Andrew Hyatt, John Duigan, Buzz McLaughlin

Director: Andrew Hyatt


No matter what the Marvel Universe tells us, the most impressive superheroes don’t wear capes and they don’t stand brooding on moonlit skyscrapers — as we are reminded in Sight, the true story of Dr. Ming Wang, who survived China’s Cultural Revolution, escaped to the United States, and became a world-renowned eye surgeon.

Look him up on the Web and you get the schematic of Wang’s accomplishments: A world-class ophthalmologist with degrees from MIT and Harvard, head of a foundation that provides sight-restoring surgeries free of charge, NPR Philanthropist of the Year.

But every superhero has a back story, and this earnest biopic traces Wang’s unlikely rise, along with the tragedies that fueled his ascent to the top of his field.

Terry Chen (Amazon Prime’s The Lake) stars as Wang, a perpetually grim, serious-minded soul. His ambition is palpable:  As much as he loves bringing sight to people who are enduring supposedly incurable blindness, it is also embarrassingly clear that he is equally fond of standing before press microphones at his Nashville clinic, crowing about his latest triumphs.

His bravado, it turns out, masks a nagging sense of inadequacy, and it erupts following humbling experience: After smugly assuring reporters that he will be able to restore the sight of a girl from India who was horribly blinded, Wang is aghast to discover he can’t always deliver what he promises.

It is that failure that plunges Wang into a valley of dark self-assessment, rooted in haunting memories of his childhood in 1960s China.

In a flashback, we find young Wang as, not surprisingly, a studious youngster. Although decades of communist rule have failed to spark China’s economy, his parents make a relatively comfortable living as academics. But then comes the Cultural Revolution, with roving bands of violent zealots demanding a radical break with all education other than party-approved propaganda. (In what appears to be a gesture toward film censors in present-day China, the Revolution is here depicted not as the brutal government initiative it was, but instead a tragically misguided grassroots movement.)

Awful as the interruption in his education is, the adolescent Wang (Ben Wang, no relation) is doubly scarred by the uncertain fate of his girlfriend Anle (Danni Wang, also no relation), who is dragged away by the Revolution, never to be seen again.

It is the loss of Anle, and the presumption of her awful fate, that haunts the adult physician. To this day, he is ridden by guilt at being unable to help her. But in re-living the dark days of the revolution, he also stumbles upon a fragment of memory that just might enable him to overcome the medical challenge that caused his recent failure.

Chen — most memorable as a crooked, and doomed, businessman on TV’s House of Cards —  brings stubborn stoicism to the lead character. Slowly, skillfully, over the course of the film, Chen allows his somewhat haughty character to realistically surrender to the notion that even a top doctor must sometimes look beyond his own skill set for guidance.

Greg Kinnear, one of the screen’s most enduringly appealing actors, gets top billing here as Wang’s associate — a guy whose unfailing goodwill and optimism provide just the dose of disarming street smarts Wang needs to avoid tumbling into his black hole of self-doubt forever.

In the end, the good doctor has learned his lesson. After yet another operating room triumph, he is content to slip out the side door. Our works, after all, speak for themselves.

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