Audience favourite 'Ordinary Angels' celebrates community and faith

Film review of Ordinary Angels – 4 out of 5 stars

Faith-based movies are always a tricky product to manage. Director Jon Gunn (The Case for Christ) and writer Jon Erwin (Jesus Revolution) are no strangers to walking the line between determining how much Christian content to add to their stories.

Their track record as filmmakers has proven that these talents know how to deliver great content based on actual events. Ordinary Angels leans into the true-to-life events involving Sharon Steves (Hilary Swank) and Ed Schmitt (Alan Ritchson) and touches on the faith discussion.

Set in Louisville, Kentucky in the early 1990s, Ed Schmidt and his family experience multiple hardships, including the death of his wife and both of his daughters having a rare genetic condition that impacts their livers.

As the bills mount and all seems to be falling for the roofer and his family, hairdresser Sharon Steves shows up at their door with cash to help. She has many problems herself, but has committed to her own private mission to assist the Schmidt family. The caring woman helps eliminate their medical debts and save their home, even though Ed pushes back on her support since he desires to provide for his family.

But as Michelle (Emily Mitchell), the youngest daughter, descends further into a catastrophic health scenario, Sharon and Ed must work together to get the little girl the liver transplant she needs during one of the worst winters on record in the US.

Ed (Alan Ritchson) and Michelle (Emily Mitchell) Schmitt in Ordinary Angels

Ed (Alan Ritchson) and Michelle (Emily Mitchell) Schmitt in Ordinary Angels

These extraordinary events are actually based on history. Now, the writing team chose to change some of the characteristics of the flawed heroine (precisely, the added alcoholism element). Still, the story’s effectiveness and the film’s emotionally charged thread provide the very thing people love about these stories.

What lifted this production from being fodder for a Hallmark or Netflix melodrama was the inclusion of Hilary Swank, Alan Ritchson and Nancy Travis. Their performances give this richness and validity that keep it from descending into the predictable nature of this genre.

Ed (Alan Ritchson) and Michelle (Emily Mitchell) Schmitt in Ordinary Angels

Ed (Alan Ritchson) and Michelle (Emily Mitchell) Schmitt in Ordinary Angels

The Gunn/Erwin combination manages to tap into the layers of this story that open the door to the spiritual and emotional aspects that will draw audiences in and yearn to know how things work out for the Schmidt family.

Some viewers may argue that the tale could have gone deeper into this component of the story. Yet, instead, what seems to have occurred is that they allowed the story to tell itself, and this shows how they hope to honour the family without overplaying their intentions.

Ordinary Angels will capture the hearts of all who engage with Sharon Steves and Ed Schmidt’s story. This is a quality film that digs deep into the darkness of trials and grief to unearth the hope found in community and faith.

Reel Dialogue: Can we talk about death and illness?

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” – Psalm 34:18

Not to be depressing or confronting, but death and illness are some of the certainties of life. Interestingly, we all respond differently when confronted with hardship and grief.

God does not leave people without an answer during these difficult times. He is a God who can indeed weep with those weeping because his Son died, too. He is near to the brokenhearted and can provide hope during a time that will inevitably affect everyone in one way or another.

If you would like to discuss death, illness and grief, reach out to Third Space. Russ and the team would love to chat with you about this and more.

Russ Matthews works for City Bible Forum as Product Manager for The Edge and Reel Dialogue. He has a passion for film and getting conversations started on themes from these visual creations. This review first appeared on Third Space and is republished with permission.

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