When a blind orphan arrives in his waiting room seeking a miracle, a world-renowned eye surgeon must confront his past-and draw on the resilience he gained growing up in China during the Cultural Revolution-to try to restore her sight.

Chuck says:

Dr. Ming Wang’s life is truly remarkable. As a child, he was raised in Hangzhou, China, his parents barely able to keep food on the table while his father attended the university in the hopes of becoming a doctor. Later, Ming followed in his footsteps, but had his education interrupted due to the cultural revolution, its followers shutting down institutes of learning, citing them as dispensaries of propaganda, instruments to control the populace.

Yet, he persevered, emigrating to the United States where he attended M.I.T. ultimately graduating as one of the school’s most promising students. He lived up to the praise, opening the Wang Vision Institute where he developed radical new procedures to help restore sight to the blind, his most significant contribution being the amniotic membrane contact lens. He’s used this on thousands of blind children from around the world, free of charge, rescuing them for a lifetime of darkness by giving them the gift of sight.

As I said, a remarkable story that, somehow, in the hands of director Andrew Hyatt comes off as a remarkably dull exercise devoid of charm or inspiration.  While “Sight” duly recounts Wang’s life, it does so in a rote manner, lacking sincerity at every step, its simplistic approach resulting in movie that bores rather than inspires.

The jumping off point is the case of Kajal (Mia SwamiNathan), a young Indian girl who was purposely blinded by her mother and has been brought to Wang’s (Terry Chen) attention. Unable to help her, the doctor takes this failure to heart, triggering long repressed memories of his childhood friend Lili (Sara Ye). Having known each other from a young age and attending school together, he blames himself for not being able to save her when she was abducted by revolutionaries as a teenager. Never seeing her again, Lili haunts his dreams, his conscience a lodestone he won’t allow himself to drop.

The heavy-handed approach to the story proves off-putting from the start. Chen gives an, at times, awkward performance, making broad choices to convey Wang’s despair. Hyatt offers little guidance where modulating his approach is concerned, while the script the director co-wrote with John Duigan and Buzz McLaughlin is all over the map, which is the film’s biggest problem.

One minute we’re in the past, the next in the present. Wang is beating himself up over the events from his youth, then he’s suffering a crisis of confidence due to his failure with Kajal. His visions of Lili happen so often, they prove comical and the notion that helping a new patient, Maria (Esabella Strickland), will help him put his past to rest is nonsensical and just lazy screenwriting.  A romance between Wang and Anie (Danni Wang), a sympathetic bartender, is introduced as well, but with so much else going on, it’s not allowed to develop.

As plot heavy as the movie is, it’s truly remarkable that it lacks any sense of urgency. Greg Kinnear as Wang’s partner Dr. Misha Bartnovsky is the only one that brings any energy to the screen, the actor’s charm standing out all the more as his co-stars are uniformly inert. Eventually, “Sight” reveals itself to be a feature-length commercial for the Wang Vision Institute, the good doctor himself appearing at the end to tout its achievements and pander for donations. Without question, Wang’s legacy of good works is worthy of attention and support. Unfortunately, a D.O.A. biopic is not the way to go about touting them, “Sight” a film that would be better off not seen by anyone.

1 1/2 Stars

Pam says:

“Sight,” based on a true story, is an overly ambitious film meandering through the life of Dr. Ming Wang (Terry Chen).  His revolutionary research and skills catapult this Chinese immigrant to the top of his industry as he gives sight to those who cannot see.  Assisted by Dr. Misha Bartnovsky (Greg Kinnear), the pair find themselves attempting to perform a miracle for Kajal, an Indian girl whose step mother blinded her with acid so she could beg more successfully on the streets of Calcutta.  (This opening scene is heart-wrenchingly disturbing.)

Ming’s life took a very circuitous route to success as he lived through the Chinese Cultural Revolution in the mid-70’s.  We are taken back in time to relive his childhood; meeting his parents and understanding why he wanted to be a doctor.  The political unrest and the social implications of this time could have thwarted the progress of Ming, but this was not the case.  We watch him grow and understand the world around him as his intellect and resiliency allows him to succeed.

We are also given an opportunity to see the world through Ming’s eyes in his current life, meeting Sister Marie (Fionnula Flanagan) and Kajal (Mia SwamiNathan) as he is on the brink of finding new research to help restore her sight.  As Kajal disappears from the storyline, Ming’s family comes to the forefront as does his love life or lack thereof.  And then we get intermittent glimpses of a young Chinese girl named Lili whose importance becomes more evident later in the film.

“Sight” wanders through Ming’s life focusing upon two stories simultaneously; his past and how to do more good in this world. While we are gripped by the past, the present lacks substance.  We didn’t need the love story aspect and we lost sight (no pun intended) of who these children are that Ming helps pro bono.  And what is the relationship between Misha and Ming?  Where did it begin and how did they get to where they are today?

There are so many superficial storylines that take away from the core of the film and the message.  While there are religious overtones to the story, it’s generally delicately presented, but, again, Ming’s background and current life just doesn’t jive due to lack of information.  There also is a lack of authenticity with Chen’s performance and many of the situations feel contrived.  However, the scenes taking us back to 1970’s China give us not only a history lesson, but allow us to understand the extreme obstacles Ming overcame.  If only this sincerity existed in the story of the present day, it would have been what it should have been— an uplifting, inspiring story of faith and hope.

“Sight” finds a way to give us hope and reminds us of the importance of helping others, but with such a convoluted storyline it loses its impact.

2 Stars


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