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Release Date: 02/23/24 [Cinemas]
Genre: Drama.

Studio: Lionsgate. 

"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." 


When talking about Christian Media, I think it’s important that I lay my cards on the table. I grew up in a Christian home, and have always been surrounded by movies ‘based on true events’ which exist as a form of evangelism first, entertainment second, and eventually, art. I don’t think I am the first critic to say that Christian media often lacks true, persistent quality as a form of art - it exists for its tribe, is evaluated for its value to the tribe, and often fails to cross into the mainstream because of that limit. Ordinary Angels, directed by Jon Gunn, is a Christian film, but it pushes past the evangelistic limit to tell a story about healing in a real, tangible way. Its portrayal of faith is deeply sincere and human, and it fully uses the medium of film to tell its story. 


Ordinary Angels tells the story of the Schmitt family, and how a community pulled together to overcome the failures of the American Healthcare system. Based on the true story of Michelle Schmitt, a 5 year old girl who needed a life saving liver transplant in 1994, Ordinary Angels retells the events centered on Ed Schmitt, the widowed father of Michelle, and Sharon Stevens, a stranger who made it her life mission to help Ed both procure the means to pay for Michelle's surgery and medication, and to help Ed with the medical debt he incurred paying for his wife’s treatment. 


This story packs enough emotion to hit the heart, even in the standard biographical picture format. Every technical component works together to elevate each moment, creating emotion in each scene. Screenwriters Meg Tilly and Kelly Fremon Craig have created a drama that drives forward through empathy - Ordinary Angels is a story about real people, and this dramatization aims to be verisimilitudinous. As adapters, Tully and Craig have taken the strongest component of the lived events and translated it into a 110 minute drama, enhanced further by editor Parker Adams. 

This is a drama that has many sequences of competent, flashy editing and montage, but the moments that stuck with me were the quiet moments, where the camera lingers and captures those moments of pondering and questioning through silence. The persistence of these moments creates a deeper rhythm that allows for emotion to sit and be explored. That exploration comes from looking at another human - which brings us to the greatest strength of this film: the performances. 

Hillary Swank and Alan Ritchson are terrific in the lead roles of Sharon and Ed respectively. Swank brings Sharon, a loud, won’t-take-no-for-an-answer midlife woman who is running away from her own problems. Sharon isn’t the main protagonist in this story - and her story only reveals itself an hour into the film - but Swank brings all of these character levels to every scene she is in. Ritchson is extremely affecting as Ed, especially in the quiet moments interacting with Skywalker Hughes (Ashley Schmitt) and Emily Mitchell (Michelle Schmitt), where Ed has to ‘put on a brave face’ for his daughters as they all process the passing of Terresa, Ed’s wife. And speaking of Hughes, she deserves praise for her performance as well. Ashley is a smaller role, but there are multiple scenes where Hughes brings the character to life with true empathy, care, and introspection. The entire cast all give great performances across their varied roles - Nancy Travis is great as Barbara Schmitt, Ed’s mother. Emily Mitchell is vibrant, youthful and is natural in the role of Michelle. Tamala Jones plays Rose, Sharon’s co-worker at the hair salon, and her screen presence lends weight to a character who is primarily a part of the B-plot. 

Ordinary Angels is a powerful piece of media that happens to be a Christian film. It’s a film that features many components of Christianity - churches, pastors, funerals, and a prayer - but it focuses on the characters and their own journey’s beyond their faith. It’s a film where a girl asks her dad why they don’t pray anymore - and instead of the scene being framed as ‘not praying is bad’, it’s framed as the difficulty of conversing with a deity when you have been abandoned. It’s a film about people, grief, and healing - and it does this without a salvation message. It uses its final moments to shout out the need for liver donations instead. It’s a human movie, a moving movie, and it’s well worth your time.

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