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Ordinary Angels

Ordinary Angels

Rated PG - for thematic content, brief bloody images and smoking.
Director: Jon Gunn
Starring: Hilary Swank, Alan Ritchson, Nancy Travis, Tamala Jones, Skywalker Hughes, Emily Mitchell, Amy Acker
Running Time: 1 hour, 56 minutes
Theatrical Release Date: February 23, 2024


Plot Summary

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. (from IMDB)

Film Review

It continues to amaze me how far faith-based films have come and continue to evolve. Anyone tuning into any number of big screen faith-based films today may not realize just how serious the genre's growing pains have been. It's no easy feat to naturally mix a gospel message into a feature-length film while simultaneously offering quality acting and a decent story in the process. However, the team at Kingdom Story Company seem to have cracked the code. With movies like I Still Believe and Jesus Revolution, this ever-maturing team of filmmakers are consistently giving moviegoers something inspiring and quality at the same time. Over the years, I've seen plenty of well-intentioned faith-based movies that never seemed to quite get the formula right, and I admit I'd all but completely lost hope things would ever get better.

Enter the latest Kingdom Story Company production as yet another shining example of getting things right. Not only is Ordinary Angels a well-made family-friendly film, but it boasts the acting chops of Academy Award winner Hilary Swank and Amazon's own towering Jack Reacher, Alan Ritchson to lead a movie based on an emotional true story.

In the mid-90's, a widowed father was struggling to pay his late wife's hospital bills, as well as those for his ailing 5-year-old daughter who was on the edge of death waiting for a liver transplant. In stepped a tenacious hairdresser who was determined to help this family out. An unlikely friendship blossomed that would go on to inspire an entire community to band together in order to help this family out... and it's the kind of heart-warming story that will likely restore even the most cynical person's faith in humanity.

The story's focus is pretty well split between Swank's hairdresser character, Sharon, and Ritchson's widowed father, Ed Schmitt. Ed is a much different character for Ritchson than Reacher. While both are relatively stoic characters, Ed is more wounded, guarding his wounded pride in a timid manner while trying desperately to care for his two young daughters. Thankfully, the producers absolutely hit one out of the park when they cast the Schmitt children. Both are adorable and charming little actresses. I've seen far too many terrible young actors (seriously; look no further than Tim Burton's live action Dumbo film for a fairly recent example) that hurt a film's end result more than anything, but these girls actually help make the story all that more powerful. Ritchson makes the audience feel for his character, since you not only understand his loss, but you understand the emotional and financial stresses he's having to endure. Meanwhile, Sharon's life isn't all sunshine and rainbows either. Not only is she in denial about being an alcoholic, but the layers of her personal life are slowly peeled away as the story progresses to reveal she has an especially damaged relationship with her adult son. While throwing herself completely into the lives of the Schmitt's -- much to Ed's chagrin -- Sharon struggles with her own personal victories and failures, and it only adds to the emotional weight of Ordinary Angels.

When it comes to the whole faith-based angle of Ordinary Angels, the message is delivered subtly, as organically as possible. I'd even say that, were it not for the Christian filmmaking team behind the movie, it might be easy to skip applying such a label to this one. The main sources of faith in the story come from the presence of the small town's church, Ed's mother (played by Last Man Standing's Nancy Travis) and through Ed's daughter Ashley. The best example of this comes from the latter, when Ed is sitting at the base of a tree with Ashley and she asks him why they've stopped talking to God since her mother passed. It's a sweet moment that hits differently when being delivered by a child. And since the young talents playing Ashley and Michelle are just so dang good (and adorable), it truly feels genuine and not shoehorned in or forced.

While the movie is rated PG and geared towards families, there is still some thematic content to consider before whisking the entire family off to the cinema. As touched on briefly earlier, Sharon struggles with being an alcoholic. It gets her in trouble a few times, and it's clearly one of the reasons she has such a strained relationship with her son. There's a scene where she goes to see him and he verbally cuts her down that is a little uncomfortable to watch (especially since we don't know their history). And all the tension with Ed's sick daughter, Michelle, is pretty heavy. There's one sequence in particular that is pretty shocking and unexpected. When her grandmother is reading her a story, suddenly Michelle coughs up blood onto the pages. It's not just a surprising amount of blood, but it comes during such a tender moment that it is especially jarring. Sharon has a couple weak moments regarding her drinking temptations, and this makes for some additional drama, as well. All in all, I wouldn't recommend this movie for the younger viewers or anyone who is sensitive to losing a parent or loved one, or for anyone sensitive to the idea of a terminally ill child fighting for their life.

The Kingdom Story Company has done it again. With a quality production led by some truly great talent, Ordinary Angels (in spite of it's kind of corny, Hallmark-movie title), is a wonderful movie well worth seeing and supporting. Faith-based movies truly have come a long way over the years, and this movie is just the latest example of a production team getting it right.

- John DiBiase (reviewed: 9/1/23)



Parental Guide: Content Summary

. Sex/Nudity: None.
. Vulgarity/Language: 1 "Oh my G-d," 1 "Dear L-rd," 1 "cr*p," 1 "p*ssed off"
. Alcohol/Drugs: When we meet Sharon, she's out drinking at a bar with friends. She gets so drunk, she dances on the bar counter and falls off; We see Sharon drinking to excess several times by herself; Sharon pours out bottles of alcohol down the drain. At one point, she stops to consider what she's pouring out, but continues; Sharon drinks till she's drunk in her home; Sharon sees beer in Ed's fridge and in the next scene, we see empty cans and bottles on the kitchen counter, with Sharon passed out while slumped over on a picnic table in the backyard.
. Blood/Gore: Michelle suddenly coughs up blood onto a book her grandmother is reading to her. In the next scene, we see blood on the grandmother's clothes, as well as Sharon's.
. Violence: When we meet Sharon, she's out drinking at a bar with friends. She gets so drunk, she dances on the bar counter and falls off. The next day, she has a bruise on her forehead; Michelle suddenly coughs up blood onto a book her grandmother is reading to her. In the next scene, we see blood on the grandmother's clothes, as well as Sharon's.


Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not exclusively on content. However, if the content really affects the reviewer's opinion and experience of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's overall rating.

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