FILM REVIEW — More than just an “Ordinary” drama

Published 12:10 am Friday, February 23, 2024

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“Ordinary Angels”

Lionsgate Films

Directed by Jon Gunn

Starring Hilary Swank, Alan Ritchson, Nancy Travis, Amy Acker, Tamala Jones, Skywalker Hughes and Emily Mitchell

Rated PG

3 Stars

Ordinary Angels is a well-meaning, crowd-pleaser of a movie that gets extra credit for being based on a true story.

Sure, the film gets a little saccharine at moments, but all things considered, this is a feel-good movie with solid acting, and it certainly packs an emotional wallop.

Two-time Academy Award winner Hillary Swank stars as Sharon, a hairdresser whose life is a mess. She’s an alcoholic party girl whose son won’t even speak to her. Things start to change for the better when she reads a story about the Schmitt family in the local paper. In addition to grieving for the mother who had recently died, it turns out that the youngest Schmitt daughter (Emily Mitchell) is in desperate need of a new liver.

Something snaps in Sharon’s brain, and she decides she must help this family. That decision shocks the father (Sam Ritchson), who doesn’t know what to say when this strange woman in a sparkly skirt suddenly appears on his doorstep and hands him an envelope of cash to help pay the hospital bills.

Or when Sharon makes herself part of the family, doing everything from bringing the kids breakfast to delving into the family’s finances.

As I mentioned, this is a feel-good drama, so you can probably guess what will ultimately happen to the sick child who desperately needs a new liver. Still, along the way we get a whole lot of roadblocks, both big and small, all of which are overcome thanks to the family’s love and Sharon’s single-minded efforts.

Her efforts are laudable, but it’s not always clear how some of these problems are taken care of. What’s more, a few of the issues that have been fabricated to give the movie extra conflict aren’t very believable.

And then there’s the schmaltz factor. “Ordinary Angels” can get a little heavy-handed for a mean old cynic like me, but dang it, I won’t deny that the movie made me cry several times.

The acting is uniformly solid. Swank is a seasoned pro, and she knows just how to play this memorable juggernaut of a woman.

Ritchson is also quite convincing as the well-meaning but clueless father who is trying to keep things together for his family. And I must say that as far as child actors go, Skywalker Hughes and Emily Mitchell are endearing playing the young sisters.

Director Jon Gunn generally makes faith-based films, so it’s no surprise that “Ordinary angels” has a strong religious undercurrent running through it.

This is a story of a man who’s lost his faith, but who rediscovers his community thanks to the efforts of one woman. This theme isn’t explored as deeply as it might be in Gunn’s other movies, but it percolates nicely in the background.

All things considered, “Ordinary Angels” is an earnest film with solid performances and a feel-good message of coming together to support a family in need.

I suppose I can make a nitpicky list of the unfocused elements here (and there are quite a few) but the bottom line is that this film is well-made, and it will absolutely tear at your heart—in all the best ways.

“Ordinary Angels” may be ordinary by some standards, but thanks to its message and undeniable emotional content, it proves to be far better than just another ordinary drama.

Movie reviews by Sean McBride, “The Movie Guy,” are published each week by Orange Newsmedia. Sean welcomes your comments via email at