‘Ordinary Angels’ is a Feel-Good Movie that Celebrates The Human Spirit

Synopsis: Inspired by the incredible true story of a hairdresser who single-handedly rallies an entire community to help a widowed father save the life of his critically ill young daughter.
Director: Jon Gunn
Stars: Hilary Swank, Alan Ritchson

Preachy films that push a religious narrative down your throat are fairly common as Easter approaches and something I prefer to avoid.

Ordinary Angels tells the story of Ed Schmitt (Reacher’s Alan Ritchson), a freelance roofer, and his family. When we first meet Ed, he and his wife Theresa (Amy Acker) have just welcomed their new daughter into the world. Their main disagreement seems to be what to name the baby. He wants to name her Ed, but surprisingly, his wife does not.

Sadly, five years after Michelle is born, they are back at the hospital. Theresa is ill and passes away, but not before accumulating large medical bills. If this isn’t enough to deal with, Michelle herself becomes sick and needs a new liver. Ed is swimming in debt and realizes that his daughter isn’t high on the transplant list, but even if she was, how would he pay for it?

Meanwhile, we meet Sharon Stevens (Hilary Swank), a hairdresser who likes to party hard. The last thing she has in her hand before going to bed and the first thing she reaches for in the morning is usually alcohol. Her good friend Rose (Tamala Jones) wants her to get help, but she refuses. “I am not an alcoholic,” Sharon declares.

Sharon discovers that Theresa has died, and her funeral is that day. She decides to attend. While she isn’t a regular funeral crasher, she wants to pay her respects. She meets Michelle (Emily Mitchell) and her older sister Ashley (Skywalker Hughes). She immediately endears herself to the two young girls, but their father is very sceptical of this woman in her jean skirt and high heels.

Sharon learns that Michelle needs a transplant and decides her calling is to help the family raise money. Initially, she put signs up and hosted a fundraiser at the hair salon where she works that brings in a few thousand dollars.

Ed, who is trying to figure out how he is going to pay for Michelle’s recent hospital bill, gets a knock at the door, and wouldn’t you know, the bizarre lady from the funeral is at his front door, uninvited, bringing him the money collected at the fundraiser.

While Ed is sceptical of Sharon, his mother, Barbara (Nancy Travis), and the girls aren’t. Sharon has a very strong personality and informs Ed that she will help him raise the money his family desperately needs.

The first thing we need to recognize is the outstanding casting of this film. Alan Ritchson plays Ed very similarly to how he played Reacher. He doesn’t say a lot and is set in his ways. He doesn’t throw any punches but still lives by a code. Ed is stubborn (one of the most annoying qualities, isn’t it?), but he stays true to himself. We feel Ed’s desperation as he is drowning in debt and has no idea how he will make it all work.

Hilary Swank’s resumé over the last few years doesn’t resemble that of someone who has won two Academy Awards for lead actress. She has had a lot of roles that went unnoticed, and some, like Fatale, that should be ignored altogether. That being said, Hilary Swank delivers a fantastic performance in this film. Her character is dealing with her own issues, such as trying to establish a relationship with her estranged son, and there are parts of the movie where you are cheering for her and others where you wish she could get out of her own way. Swank has the audience invested.

I was concerned this would be a heavy-handed religious film, and it’s not. Instead, it shines a spotlight on the human spirit and represents the best of people. The type of people who use words like ‘Please’ and ‘Thank you,’ who wave when you drive by, acknowledge you when you hold the door open, and most of all, those who exhibit unwavering selflessness.

The events that unfold in the film seem to be over the top, but then you are reminded that this is based on a true story.

There is some not-so-subtle commentary about the health system in the United States and the costs involved to the patients, but that’s a dialogue that needs to happen.

With strong performances from Ritchson and Swank, Ordinary Angels may be the feel-good movie of 2024. I was pleasantly surprised by this film, which will resonate with audiences.

Grade: B

Watch the movie trailer: