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4 Things You Should Know about Ordinary Angels

4 Things You Should Know about <em>Ordinary Angels</em>

Sharon is a talented hairdresser with a can-do spirit and a candid tongue. She doesn't take no for an answer. She says what she thinks.

She's also an alcoholic with an estranged adult son who resents her for her addiction. She drinks vodka for breakfast. She stumbles home from the bar late at night. Far too often, she covers her personal pain with a drink from the liquor bottle. Her friends try to intervene but have little success.

Soon, though, Sharon discovers something that gets her mind off her failures: a newspaper story about a 5-year-old girl who is critically ill and whose mother recently died. Sharon can't get the story out of her head. She attends the funeral. She launches a fundraiser. She reaches out to the father. Of course, Sharon doesn't personally know the family. She just wants to help a neighbor in need.

"We all need to find meaning and purpose outside ourselves," she tells a friend. Will Sharon's assistance make a difference? And can she get her life back on track?

The new faith-based movie Ordinary Angels (PG) tells the uplifting story of Sharon, her new friend Ed, and his family.

Here are four things you should know:

Photo credit: ©Lionsgate; used with permission.

Ordinary Angels Movie

1. It's Based on an Incredible True Story

Ordinary Angels is based on the memoir of the same name by real-life Louisville resident Sharon Stevens Evans, who, back in the early 1990s, was a hairdresser and single mom when she read a story in the local newspaper about a local father (Ed Schmitt) whose wife had died and whose daughters suffered from a deadly liver condition, biliary atresia. Ed also faced a mountain of debt from medical bills. Sharon helped Ed with fundraisers. Her biggest heroic action, though, was rallying the community to help Ed and his daughter Michelle get to the airport during a historic snowstorm just as a liver had become available. They needed to fly to Omaha, Neb., for the transplant. (The film plot largely follows that outline.) Last year, the Louisville Courier-Journal newspaper recounted the real-life story.

"Sharon started calling radio stations to rally the community because the Southeast Christian Church parking lot needed to be cleared for a helicopter to land and pick up my dad and Michelle to get to the airport and onto a private plane to take them to Omaha," Michelle's sister, Ashely Schmitt, told the newspaper. (Ashely, too, underwent a liver transplant, although it's not part of the movie.)

That parking lot scene is depicted in the film.

Ordinary Angels was produced by Kingdom Story Company, which also made I Can Only Imagine, Jesus Revolution, I Still Believe, Woodlawn, and American Underdog, which are all true-life stories. Producer Andy Erwin said films based on real events have extra power.

"The Bible said that they overcame the enemy by the blood of the lamb and the power of their testimony," Erwin told Crosswalk, quoting Revelation 12:11. "And there's something really powerful about your personal story. And that's why we tell the stories we do."

Photo credit: ©Lionsgate; used with permission.

Hilary swank actress ordinary angels

2. It Includes a Two-Time Oscar Winner

Hillary Swank, who won Best Actress Oscars in 2000 (Boys Don't Cry) and 2005 (Million Dollar Baby), portrays Sharon, while Alan Ritchson, best known for his roles in Fast X and Reacher, portrays Ed. Both appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon the week before the film's release, championing the film.

Ritchson said he "begged for the role," noting he has three children and understands the lengths a parent would "go to save one of your kids."

"It will inspire you," he said of the film. "It will give us hope in humanity again, and it's a call to action to dive into your community and just help."

"I really love this movie," Swank said. "You'll laugh, you'll cry. It's a feel-good movie. And I think we really need that in this time."

Photo credit: ©Lionsgate; used with permission.

Ordinary Angels movie scene Hilary swank

3. It's Shows the 'Gospel in Action'

The Sharon we see at the beginning of Ordinary Angels isn't a saint, much less a role model. She's drunk and falling off a bar. She's drinking an orange juice-vodka combination for breakfast. She's attending an AA meeting and refusing to acknowledge she has a problem. Soon, though, she's captivated by the story of a local family needing help. She holds a "hair a thon," raising money for the father. She helps Ed find a job. She buys gifts for his daughters. She arranges for an airline company to fly Ed and his daughter to Omaha -- at no cost. She helps him tackle his debt.

Ed questions God. Sharon, though, is chasing hope.

"We all need to find meaning and purpose outside ourselves," she tells a friend.

The backdrop to Ed's story is Sharon's story. She pours her alcohol down the drain but, minutes later, is drinking again. She reaches out to her 20-something estranged son but gets rejected over and over.

Her life is a mess, but she's still willing to put others first. Maybe that's the moral of the story. God isn't looking for perfect people in His kingdom. He's just looking for people who will step out and serve. He's looking for people to do the uncomfortable.

Producer Andy Erwin said the movie shows the "gospel in action." That theme echoes James 2:20: "Faith without works is dead."

"It puts kind of hands and feet to the gospel," Erwin told Crosswalk of the film. "This is just a great case study of how to get involved to do the right thing as far as ministry, as far as outreach, as far as compassion towards people that are hurting in your community. You never know what somebody's going through next door. You never know what obstacles they're facing. And sometimes we stay so busy, especially in church culture, that we never slow down enough to figure out what's going on, and how can I help? I think this movie really shows a person who was willing to do that for a stranger. And then it inspired this church to make a difference."

Photo credit: ©Lionsgate; used with permission.

ordinary angels movie scene

4. It's the Movie America Needs

Cynicism and division dominate our culture. Ordinary Angels is the cure for both. It's a film that urges us to reach out to those in need. It encourages us to set aside our differences. It points to a better society where we act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8). It asks us to be an "ordinary angel" in our neighborhood.

It's a faith-centric movie with lots of grit, plenty of inspiration, and a few curveballs, too. Swank and Swank are masterful. Young actress Emily Mitchell, who portrays Michelle, is perfect for the role. The writers masterfully turned a little-known story into a movie that has widespread appeal and will spark a tear or two.

Ashely and her family hope the film awakens viewers to the need for organ donations.

"People who didn't know her story or the importance of organ donation will understand that now," she said. America needs this film.


Ordinary Angels is rated PG for thematic content, brief bloody images, and smoking. The film contains no coarse language but does include themes about a mom's death, alcoholism, and the possible death of a child.

Entertainment rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

Family-friendly rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist PressChristianity TodayThe Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.

4 Things You Should Know about Ordinary Angels