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Sound of Hope: The Story of Possum Trot (Christian Movie Review)

About the Film 

“If we can, then who is it that can’t?” As the parallel titles imply, Sound of Hope is a spiritual follow-up to Angel Studios’ 2023 smash hit, Sound of Freedom. Like the previous film, it shines a light on the vulnerable, abused, neglected children in society and leaves audiences with a challenge: “What then will you do about it?” As an inspiring narrative and a potent call to action, Sound of Hope is one of the most powerful and emotionally moving films of the year; a story that will stick with you long after the end credits have rolled.    

The movie is based on a true story of how 22 families from a small church in Possum Trot (a rural town in east Texas) felt led by God to adopt 77 difficult-to-place foster children. The plot isn’t filled with stunning miracles or breathtaking action. Instead, it’s the story of how a family, church, and community put love into action, even when doing so was difficult and unglamorous. The movie is powerful because it is intimate and real; it’s baptized in honest human experiences rather than Hollywood tropes and contrivances.   

Sound of Hope is elevated by a superb cast. Demetruis Grosse (Reverend Martin) and Nika King (Donna Martin) both deliver powerhouse performances. Despite their characters’ virtues and self-sacrificial actions, both remain strikingly human. They are imperfect and frail, not immune to crushing despair or crippling doubt. Equally excellent is Diaana Babnicova as Terri (a troubled child suffering from immense trauma), who demonstrates tremendous acting range in a complex and demanding role. Sound of Hope may be the most exceptionally acted faith-based film I have ever watched, and I hope that the film’s faith elements don’t prevent the cast from garnering the mainstream recognition they deserve.     

While there are plenty of nuances within the story, Sound of Hope is an unapologetically message-driven call to action. An end credit title card declares, “It’s time to fight for the children.” The filmmakers leave little ambiguity about what they hope to accomplish. I’m often repelled by the heavy-handed, fourth-wall-breaking messaging that is characteristic of much faith-based storytelling, but Sound of Hope largely avoids this pitfall due to the raw authenticity of the story and its presentation.   

The film doesn’t sugarcoat its message. It’s not a sentimental family drama or an inspirational pep talk. The movie earns its PG-13 rating by exposing the uncomfortable severity of the problem and doesn’t shy away from showcasing the many hardships in store for those—like the Martins—who strive to become part of the solution. Sound of Hope doesn’t promise that things will be easy (and neither does the Bible, as Reverend Martin aptly points out), but it shows viewers that genuine faith cannot stand on the sidelines when so many vulnerable people are suffering. The emotional victories feel earned, because the film is honest about the challenges that were overcome to achieve them.   

Inspirational movies like this one can be tricky to evaluate. It’s a powerful story, but is it a quality movie? The two are impossible to disentangle, but everything about the filmmaking is done well, even if no single element stands out. The 2-hour runtime is perhaps slightly too long, particularly for a narrative that unfolds in somewhat episodic fashion. Even so, the runtime effectively communicates the weariness of the Martins’ struggle, and the “two steps forward, one step backward” plot progression reminds viewers that real life doesn’t conform to tidy Hollywood story arcs. Overall, while some elements could be nit-picked, the filmmaking is a competent vehicle for the powerful story and important message.   

In the end, Sound of Hope took me by surprise. I have enjoyed most of the films from Angel Studios, but the plot synopsis struck me more as a powerful church testimony than raw material for gripping cinematic storytelling. But the real-life events of the Possum Trot community are an incredible story worth telling, and Sound of Hope tells it well. Plenty of movies entertain and many are emotionally stirring, but it is rare for a cinematic experience to genuinely change people. Sound of Hope may well be one of those special films. 

On the Surface

For Consideration

Beneath The Surface

Engage The Film

The Church on the Sidelines        

Sound of Hope advocates for vulnerable children and underscores the importance of adoption. But in many ways, the film offers a blunt challenge to the Christian church. A person doesn’t need to be a Christian to be inspired by the message of adoption, but the film repeatedly hammers home the point that the church, after all we have received from God, should be leading the way.    

Reverend Martin declares to his congregation, “We have churches on every corner….There shouldn’t be a child without a home. We could turn this whole thing around.” The problem, according to Martin—and to the filmmakers—is not a lack of churches and Christians but a reluctance to make the required sacrifices.   

Midway through the film, Reverend Martin travels from his rural congregation and community into the city to seek financial help from a large church. After the grimy challenges the characters have faced to that point, the sleek sanctuary of the megachurch is a stark and jarring contrast that might as well represent an entirely different world.   

The visuals and dialogue in the scene aren’t subtle. But it is significant that director Joshua Weigel casts himself in the role of the church’s pastor, including himself among those the film challenges to step up. “We’ll do what we can,” the pastor responds as he writes a check for an undisclosed sum of money. His primary motivation seems to be clearing his own conscience. But as other characters later note, “religious guilt” cannot fix a broken child’s heart, only “love can. Real, determined love.”   

In an early scene, after sitting through an adoption orientation presentation, a character confesses that after seeing what she’s seen, she can’t allow herself to provide only “moral support” for others from the sidelines. She must leave the sidelines and fight for the children. That moment is perhaps the clearest encapsulation of director Joshua Weigel’s intention for the film: it’s not enough for audiences to feel uplifted by the inspirational story of Possum Trot; we must also join their mission. 

  

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