TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — "The Sound of Violet" isn't shy about facing a minefield of tough topics. Maybe it's a little too brave.
The Christian-themed movie faces difficult concepts, such as human trafficking, prostitution and the power dynamics in romances in which one person lives with a developmental disability.
Writer/director Allen Wolf, who adapted the film from his own novel, tiptoes along the lines of caricature and earnestness to varying degrees of success. I found the story involving and the performances strong, but winced at some of the heavy-handedness and tone-deafness.
Cason Thomas is Shawn, a high-functioning autistic man who works with his brother, Colin (Kaelon Christopher) on a dating app. Shawn's interactions with his own dates are so awkward that he's been banned from his own app. At one of the company's parties, he meets Violet (Cora Cleary), one of the prostitutes Colin surreptitiously hired to attend one of the parties for the business.
After a comically awkward "first date" in which neither party understands the other's intentions, a tenuous friendship between Shawn and Violet starts to blossom into a romance. Shawn's support network, led by his uptight, judgmental grandmother, Ruth (Jan D'Arcy), sniffs out Violet's true identity and works to undermine the relationship.
Shawn and Ruth, who are both fierce defenders of their faith engage in Biblical debates about acceptance and judgment. Colin, who is quite a bit looser with his morals, objects to the relationship on the assumption that Violet is out to scam him.
The most problematic character is Anton (Michael E. Ball), Violet's pimp. Pandering to problematic stereotypes, the character — who emerges as the ruthless villain standing in the way of the romance — is one of the few Black people in the movie with a speaking role.
Despite the film's flaws, the chemistry between Thomas and Cleary — who have echoes of the Richard Gere-Julia Roberts dynamic in "Pretty Woman" — help elevate the material above its clunky origins. A complicated story about an unorthodox relationship, "The Sound of Violet" is worth hearing out.