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Content Caution

Ordinary Angels 2024


In Theaters


Home Release Date




Paul Asay

Movie Review

Life can be cruel.

It doesn’t matter how good a person you are—how conscientious a spouse, how devoted a dad. We can talk about how “blessed” we are, and it’s true. And yet, it’s also true that disaster can visit us all. Tragedy plays no favorites.

Ed Schmitt feels that truth with a sharp, bitter clarity. Theresa—his beautiful, caring wife—died all too soon from a rare liver disease, leaving behind Ed and their two wonderful little girls. But now the youngest daughter, 5-year-old Michelle, has the same rare condition. Ed has spent a fortune on doctors and hospital visits and medication, money the Kentucky roofer just doesn’t have. But even if Ed had millions in the bank, it doesn’t change the awful truth: Without a new liver, and soon, Michelle will die.

Sharon Stevens doesn’t have a liver to spare. Honestly, she’s overusing the one that she has.

More often than not, you’ll find her at the nearest Louisville bar or saloon—slamming down shots, popping tequila and maybe, on a good night, dancing on the bar.

But then one day, Sharon sees a notice for Theresa’s memorial service and learns about Michelle’s condition. She crashes the service and introduces herself to Theresa’s daughters—little Michelle and her older sister, Ashley. And when Ed sees this stranger in the church’s fellowship room—talking to his little girls—he walks over to find out what’s going on.

Sharon introduces herself.

“I just wanted to come by and say I’m sorry,” she says. “And if there’s anything I can do to help—”

How many people say those same words and find them empty? How many times are phrases like, “I’m sorry” and, “If I can do anything” the farthest we take things? We mean what we say—and then we go on. We say, but don’t do. We can’t. Under the weight of disaster, the need feels just too overwhelming. The questions seem too unanswerable.

Well, Sharon’s not one of those people. In fact, she’s not going to wait to be told if she can help Ed and his little girls.

She’s going to help them—whether Ed wants her to or not.

Positive Elements

This movie—based on a true story, by the way—might be titled Ordinary Angels. But Sharon reminds me not of an angel, but a devil—a Looney Tunes Tasmanian Devil, if you will. She shows up in Ed’s life and starts upsetting everything. But instead of being a cyclone of devastation, she’s ultimately a tornado for good.

At first, her goals are relatively modest: Sharon throws a fundraiser for Michelle at her hair salon and raises more than $3,000 for the cause. But she knows that’ll barely make a dent in the hospital bills. She swoops in to take a look at Ed’s finances—and she realizes just how much work there’s left to do. Soon, Sharon’s not so much a hairdresser as much as the Schmitts’ fundraiser, financial advisor, and PR expert extraordinaire. And while Rose becomes a little frustrated by Sharon’s perpetual absences, there’s no question she’s doing some tremendous work for a family in need.

But there’s a bittersweet thread that runs through all this do-gooding. Sharon’s an alcoholic whose drinking wrecked her relationship with her own son. Rose points out that her work with the Schmitts looks an awful lot like addictive behavior—just channeled in a different (and admittedly better) way. And while its laudable to use your own pain and issues to fuel good works elsewhere, you still need to work on those core issues. Ultimately, Sharon understands that dynamic, and she takes steps not only to help another family, but to help herself, too.

Ed, meanwhile, is a devoted father to his little girls, filling their lives with smiles and laughter even as his own heart is sick with worry. Everyone knows that Michelle’s sick, and that her chances to recover are growing slimmer by the week. But that doesn’t stop Ed from doing his best to make each day as special as he can make it—even as he works long hours to pay for his daughter’s medical bills.

Spiritual Elements

In a flashback shortly after Michelle’s birth, we see Ed and Theresa jokingly argue about what to name their new baby. Theresa finally settles on Michelle. “It means ‘gift from God,’” Theresa says.

We get the sense that, recently, nothing felt like a gift to Ed. His wife’s death and daughter’s sickness have done a number on Ed’s belief and trust in God. When Ed’s mother tells him to keep his faith, Ed snaps.

“My faith? You know how many prayer lists Theresa was on?” He says. “Seventeen. And now they got Michelle on those same lists. Lotta good faith’s doing me.”

Ed’s daughters have seen that bitter shift in Ed’s faith. “Are you mad at God, Dad?” Ashley asks him. “Is that why we don’t pray anymore?” Ed doesn’t answer, and Ashley tells him that it’s OK. “Everybody gets mad sometimes. You should still talk to Him, though.”

We don’t get a sense that Sharon’s own faith is particularly strong. But she does believe that she was “meant” to help Ed and his little girls. And certainly Ed’s mother, Barbara, sees Sharon as an answer to prayer. The very night that Ed rails against those prayer lists, Sharon shows up on their doorstep, unbidden, carrying the $3,200 and change she raised for Michelle. Barbara invites her to stay for a bite to eat. And when Ed starts to protest, Barbara stops him.

“When the Lord sends a woman to the door with an envelope full of cash, you invite her for dinner,” she says.

Theresa’s memorial takes place in the family’s church, and the minister admits the lack of answers in the wake of the Schmitt’s ongoing tragedy. “I can tell you this,” the minister adds, however. “God is with us here, in this moment, in this very room. And we are here with you,” he adds, turning to Ed. “So lean on God. And lean on us.” We see the interior of the church later in the movie, too—and the church’s parking lot becomes the locale for one of the movie’s most critical moments.

At an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, a man with a cross necklace tells the other attendees that the secret to getting and staying sober is to “find a reason to be here that’s bigger than you are.”

Sexual Content

Sharon and Rose go to a bar for a drink. Sharon has several, and Rose asks her what she’s doing.

“I’m just trying to make one of these guys look my age,” Sharon quips.

“There ain’t enough booze in this place for that, honey,” Rose says.

Rose tends to dress in rather tight, slightly revealing garb (especially early on in the movie), and Michelle’s deeply impressed by Sharon’s “sparkly” attire.

Violent Content

During a night out on the town, Sharon climbs on the top of the tavern bar and dances. She falls behind the bar—causing a second or two of worry from Rose and the other patrons—but then pops back up, seemingly just fine. The next morning, though, she finds a patch of dried blood on her scalp.

While Michelle’s disease isn’t exactly violent, we know that it’s life threatening. And we see plenty of its most worrisome signs. Her eyes sometimes turn yellow with jaundice. Her belly can become swollen and painful. And in one scene, she vomits up blood; Barbara and Sharon’s clothes are stained with that blood when they take Michelle to the hospital.

Crude or Profane Language

The language is pretty mild here, but we do hear a single use each of “crap” and “p-ssed,” along with a sprinkling of minor swear-word stand-ins such as “heck” and “darn.”

Drug and Alcohol Content

Sharon’s drinking issues are pretty serious—even if she refuses to acknowledge they are at first. After one night of heavy drinking, Sharon’s forced to go to an AA meeting by her well-meaning friend, Rose. During the meeting, when everyone expects Sharon to introduce herself, she tells everyone that she’s “not an alcoholic. Just a p-ssed off hairdresser with a splitting headache and a super-annoying friend.”

She drinks tons of shots at the bar. In the morning, she turns to alcohol again—pouring some in her morning orange juice and stirring it with her finger.

When she begins her work with the Schmitts, Sharon’s drinking takes a back seat for a while. But a difficult visit with her son—who remembers all too well how her mother often turned to the bottle and away from him—sends her back to the booze again.

[Spoiler Warning] One night, Sharon gets so drunk that when she’s supposed to be watching the Schmitt girls, she passes out; one of the girls worries that she’s dead. Ed sees her and knows exactly what happened. He arranges for her to get a ride home, but he tells her, surprisingly gently, that she can’t be with the girls anymore. “Good choice,” she tells him. Sharon confesses that her mother drank too much, too—but that she was a “mean drunk.”

“I swore I’d be different with my kid,” she says. “But he hates me.” She goes on to talk about the voice inside her head that tells her how worthless she is. That she’s not worth loving. “Drinking is the only thing that makes that voice go away,” Sharon admits.

But this struggle becomes a catalyst for some real change in Sharon’s life. She calls up her son one last time and promises she won’t call anymore, filled with excuses and apologies. She just wanted to let him know that she’s getting help—finally. Indeed, we see her in another AA meeting—this time admitting her problem.

A character smokes a cigarette.

Other Negative Elements

In an effort to prioritize Ed’s pile of bills, Sharon tells some are worth ignoring. “Some bills are like wine,” she says. “They get better with age.”

She also ignores pretty much anyone, and anything, that inconveniences her—rarely asking permission and, as she says, refusing to take no for an answer. That’s pretty good on balance: Sharon’s persistence is what carries the day. But she also uses Theresa’s old makeup to doll-up Ed’s daughters—for Ed, a deeply painful liberty.


“I’m broken, Ed,” Sharon confesses. “I always have been.”

All of us, perhaps, could say that.

Sharon—this firecracker, Tasmanian Devil of a hairdresser—is in some ways a microcosm of who we are, and who we should be. She’s broken, and deeply so. We see evidence of her brokenness throughout the movie. But as she says herself, she’s “meant” to help. She’s meant to be better.

And even in our own brokenness, we can all be better, too. We can care more. Help more. Give more. Sometimes, we can push past our broken natures. We can find ourselves a little closer to being the people that God always designed us to be.

Ordinary Angels, directed by Jon Gunn (whom we had a chance to interview on our podcast), is based on a real story—one that indeed featured ordinary angels all around. Anchored by two-time Oscar winner Hilary Swank and featuring a powerful performance by Alan Ritchson (best known as the mountain-like Reacher on Amazon Prime) While rooted in a sense of faith and meaning—holding hope in the midst of unanswerable questions and unimaginable difficulty—the story’s not preachy. The faith we see here feels utterly organic, utterly true.

Ordinary Angels comes with a few rougher edges than you might find in some Christian films. Sharon’s alcoholism isn’t glossed over. Michelle’s failing liver comes with sometimes frightening symptoms, and the fact that such a little girl can be so sick might scare children and grieve adults.

But that’s life too, right? Kids get scared, no matter how we try to protect them. Bad things happen. And even if we keep them off our screens, they can force their way into our lives. Ordinary Angels reminds us, though, that when disaster strikes, we can find hope in the brokenness.

As Ed Schmitt’s pastor would say, we have God. And we have each other.

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Paul Asay

Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.