Sound of Hope: The Story of Possum Trot

Sound of Hope

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Naturally, an Angel Studios picture calls for suspicion; this Utah-based movie studio had made its name last year with a shocking box office hit of the human trafficking thriller ‘Sound of Freedom’. The Sound of Hope film was a $242 million grossing QAnon pushing icon and a feeling of vengeance against godless, woke Hollywood that many followers believe promotes child pedophiles.

Therefore, it is strangely surprising in ways that may even weaken its cause that the follow-up to Sound of Freedom: Sound of Hope: The Story of Possum Trot has a very bland taste. It is a well-meaning narrative about children’s welfare that takes itself seriously as it tones down sensationalism. That is your run-of-the-mill warm-and-fuzzy story on Christian love meant for church goers among whom there can be no sense of offense though played without any skill whatsoever.

Possum Trot is simply named after the place or setting for this based-on-a-true-story tale, which happens to be a predominantly Black town in East Texas whose vibrant Baptist Church is overseen by charismatic reverend W.C. Martin (Demetrius Grosse). His “First Lady,” Donna (Nika King), struggles to keep her head above water with two children and piling bills. And yet, in a moment of utmost turmoil, she hears God’s voice whistling through the trees. She’s been called, she says; she wants to adopt more kids. “Human ones?” W.C. barks skeptically. Still, they press on, moved by a Biblical urge to serve the needy.

This decision mystifies Susan Ramsey (Elizabeth Mitchell), a caseworker who has grown disillusioned with how little assistance gets offered to the numerous foster kids in Texas’ systems. But she sees an opening and allows Martins to adopt several children from broken homes -the most volatile being Terri (Diaana Babnicova) –a traumatized teenager who pretends to be a cat when they first meet. At least for a while, her odd traits are used comically, but director Terry Weigel (who also writes the script alongside wife Rebekah) eventually gives them more pathos to balance out the humor.

The story of the Martins is so touching that it makes the whole town to adopt with 77 kids coming to stay with people in Possum Trot. From here, “Sound of Hope” falls into a generally heart-warming family drama narrative as the townspeople learn the joys and sorrows of this kind of altruistic mission. It feels right and Christian to take on so many at-risk kids, and the Black church community circles around each other to help out. Yet, tensions pile up along with bills, Donna especially wrestling with various traumas and triggers among her wards.

Like this, Weigel takes charge of proceedings with an enormous dollop of po-faced earnestness, saccharine music playing over wide-eyed performances dripping with sincerity. This is a Sound of Hope film that firmly believes in God moving through people and in the power of the church (particularly the close-knit rhythms of the black southern church) to inspire selfless action. The rhythms themselves are not really surprising however, and at two hours long there is a struggle to turn what is largely a tale without much incident into something interesting. Let me not be mistaken: it’s commendable that an issue-based movie as such would explore adoption’s dark side; broken hearts, cases that are impossible or wallets strained. Then again, this movie features repetitive cycles involving arcs of trials and victories by its climax which turns out contrived in formulating Terri’s mental breakdown henceforward redeemed by baptismal water being poured over her head.

Just as if this story was not deceptively simple enough already Donna narrates it all throughout using a very annoying voice-over , forcing themes down our throats like Weigel didn’t trust his intimate camerawork or his surprisingly good cast.

“Sound Of Hope: The Story Of Possum Trot” certainly isn’t “Sound Of Freedom,” which was right-wing propaganda; at best it’s an uplifting message movie about charity and community for the sake of it, one of the very few Christian films that actually focus on the good side of faith instead of reiterating Fox News talking points.

Similarly to “Sound Of Freedom,” “Possum Trot” also ends not only with a series of heartwarming cuts to the actual people and their bright futures through faith and community but with a minutes-long call to action favoring the movie. Meanwhile, as real W.C. and Donna read off a teleprompter, a QR code appears on-screen asking viewers to “Pay It Forward” and donate tickets for others who could see it for free. This is an innovative business strategy which largely boosted the box office performance of “Freedom” and provided Angel Studios with a blueprint for its motion picture products. I’m not quite sure how I feel about its model of astroturfing itself into profitability. But, if such has to be done, why not do it on this film with its right position?

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