Ordinary Angels (2024) Review – Jason’s Movie Blog



With dozens of films genre being released each year, a typical one that gets overlooked by the more popular ones (action, drama, comedy, animation, etc.) is the subgenre category of religious movie. These films (sometimes called “faith-based” features) usually center around the struggles and ideas of a person (or groups) identity of a religious faith, which is, more or less, has a profound event or obstacle to overcome. While not entirely, the most commonplace religious type movies focus on the religion of Christianity, sometimes venturing back into the past in cinematic retelling classic biblical tales, including famed epic films like Ten Commandments and Ben-Hur (the original 1959 version) to some more modern endeavors from Hollywood like RisenThe Young Messiah, and Paul, Apostle of Christ. Other Christian “faith” films finds a more contemporary setting to tell its story, with some being “based on a true-life account” like the movies UnconditionalHeaven is Real, Unbroken, I Can Only Imagine, Indivisible, and Miracles from Heaven, while others might find inspiration from literary novels / fictionalized narratives like The Shack, Overcomer, War Room, and Same Kind of Different as Me. Regardless, whether finding inspiration from true life, references from the bible, or originality, these movies usually speaks on a person’s faith and the inner struggle he or she has within or one society’s views, spreading a message of belief and the understand of one’s belief. Now, Lionsgate Movies and Kingdom Story Company and director Jon Gunn present the latest cinematic offering from faith-based drama with the release of Ordinary Angels. Does this movie find its religious meaning within its context and presentation, or does it get lost within a shallow and preachy storytelling?


Set in the year 1993, Ed Schmitt (Alan Ritchson) is a Kentucky widower, recently losing his wife and left to care for his two daughters. His youngest, Michelle (Skywalker Hughes), is five years old and dealing with her own medical battle, fighting an uphill battle with liver diseases that will require hefty medical bills and a possible transplant in the near future. Facing financial woes in the face of medical payments and losing hope at the end of all this, Ed tries his best raise his daughters as a single parent and keeping himself one step ahead, focusing on his family and his work as a roofer. Elsewhere, Sharon Stevens (Hilary Swank) is a hair dresser that is struggling with alcoholism, working hard to ignore her personal problems. She learns of Michelle’s medical situation, setting out to meet her and understand the crisis, with Ed unsure of this attention from woman that has her own demons. Realizing her purpose for the child and looking to make a difference in her life, Sharon begins a fundraising effort to help pay medical expenses, gradually learning the size that the Schmitt family is in, which only inspires her to work harder. Becoming part of the family, Sharon’s personality clashes against Ed’s broken faith, trying to understand why God would test him to such a punishing degree, while Michelle’s conditions worsens and prompts everyone to come together and help the young child in dire need.


Sorry if this sounds a bit familiar piece from my review of I Can Only Imagine, and I Still Believe, but it definitely says what I feel about these films. While I am a devout Christian (not a crazy zealot or anything like that) for my bases of religion and my outlook beliefs in life, I’m not a huge fan of the “faith-based” feature films. That’s not to say that they’re bad or that I find them deplorable to the other more popular movie genres out there, but sometimes they can a bit preachy and corny / honky in their religious overtones and overall dramatic direction. Personally, I like the more biblical tales that Hollywood as put over, with Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments and William Wyler’s Ben-Hur; both of have proven to stand the test of time within filmmaking. Of course, Hollywood’s recent trend of put out more “remakes” movies puts an overcast on those biblical epics with 2014’s Exodus: Gods and Kings and 2016’s Ben-Hur; both of which failed to capture a sense of cinematic integrity and had a messy religious outlook in its zeal aspect. Of late, however, Hollywood as retreated more into contemporary pieces, finding narratives that are, more or less, set in a more “modern” day and age to their Christian-faithful based features. As I mentioned above, some have found success in their literary forms (being based on a book and adapted to the big screen), but most derive their inspiration from true life accounts, translating into something that’s meant to strike a chord (with moviegoers) due to its “based on a true story” aspect and nuances. Again, some are good (as I liked Unbroken and The Shack), while others kind of become a bit too preachy and let the religious overtures hamper the film, making them less-than desirable to mainstream audiences or even members of their own faiths. Thus, these religious-esque films can sometimes be problematic in their final presentation for both their viewers and in the film itself; sometimes making the movie feel like a TV channel movie rather than a theatrical feature film.

This brings me back around to talking about Ordinary Angels, a 2024 drama film and the latest project to be featured as a Christian “faith-based” endeavor. To be quite honest, I really didn’t hear much about this movie as there wasn’t a whole lot of “buzz” about it on the internet or on the various film / movie websites that I frequently visit. In truth, I remember hearing about this project (for the first time) on Instagram. Yes, it’s true. A few months back, I started watching the TV show Reacher, which starred actor Alan Ritchson in the titular character role of Jack Reacher; a role that the actor was born to play. I followed Ritchson’s Instagram page after watching the show and saw that he posted something about him doing a movie with actress Hillary Swank and it was going to be a faith-based movie. After that, the film’s movie trailer began to appear online as well as in theaters (I first saw the preview in theaters) and did look interesting. Yes, it definitely had that feeling of a “faith-based” drama, which can be viewed as a good or bad thing. For me, however, it did look interesting and did have enough “gumption” from the trailer preview to showcase an inspiring and emotional driven narrative that probably wouldn’t come off as too preachy, which Christian movies usually tend to do. Plus, being fan of Ritchson’s work as well as Swank’s past endeavors, I was gamed to see these two lead the charge in this drama-based feature. Thus, while it wasn’t the most “must see” movie to see out there, I did have some interest in seeing Ordinary Angels was all about. So, I took a chance and went to see Ordinary Angels during its opening weekend. I did wait a few days after that as I had some personal things to take care of as well as fully digesting what I saw. And what did I think of the film? Well, I liked it. Despite some commonplace cliches and tropes that are customary found in Christian faith-based movies, Ordinary Angels is a heartfelt and sentimental viewing presentation that finds the human connection within everyday people and balances of helping others while battling problems from within. It’s not the quintessential faith-based drama I’ve ever see, but it is something that rise above the norm to deliver a sincere and emotionally driven narrative that can speak to anyone…. regardless of religious background.

Ordinary Angels is directed by Jon Gunn, whose previous directorial works include such films as The Week, The Case for Christ, and Do You Believe?. Thus, given his familiarity background of working on such faith-based type projects in his career, Gunn does make for a reasonable choice to direct such a film like this, a film that examines a people’s faith in both humanity and in their own beliefs. Thus, I felt that Gunn did a pretty good job in his roles, approaching the movie with a sense of respect and sincerity for the true-life story he plans to tell within the movie as well as he presents it (collectedly) for viewers to digest the material. What do I mean? Well, despite the movie being a faith-based movie, it doesn’t feel like it at times, which can be a good thing. Don’t get me wrong, Ordinary Angels is clearly a faith-based drama through and through; complete with all the trimmings, garland, and trappings that “come with the territory” mantra. However, Gunn doesn’t really get too preachy with its religious meanings like some many other dramas to in this particular subgenre, approaching the film as a drama of human emotion and a “feel good” presentation. Yes, there are moments were thee some of the emotional and sentimental scenes are layered quite thick on the feature (more on that below), but it never gets to the point of being cheesy or shoehorned into the movie as much as other faith-based dramas have done in the past. Thus, Gunn keeps the feature on an “even-keel” and has plenty of moments where such uplifting moments are juxtaposed against imagery of hardship and emotional drama.

In truth, that this the very heart of what Ordinary Angels presents within its narrative presentation, with Gunn encapsulating “based on a true story” premise that reflects upon a person’s soul and emotional tethering to make that so-called “human connection” with its viewers. Such a tale of redemption, hope, faith, and a group of people coming together for a common good is indeed quite a profound notion to make, especially in today’s world of division and hostility. This, of course, is a great reflection within the two primary main characters of Sharon and Ed, with the former trying to find redemption / purpose in life, while the latter is looking for a renewed faith as trouble begins to mount all around him. Thus, while this movie is marked as a faith-based drama, Gunn and his team certainly make the feature feel like a “feel good” movie, which does showcase the humanity in a better light and gives us inspiration to find hope in such dark times. Given the nature of the film’s story, the emotional hook of the feature is very much alive in Ordinary Angels, with Gunn and his team staging big time moments where such tender scenes are felt with watery eyes and will certainly tug on a person’s heartstrings. It certainly did for me and I did feel a connection not just for Sharon and Ed (as a characters), but also in Ed’s two daughters as they have their own journey to overcome in the movie. Overall, I felt that Gunn did a good job in cinematically representing this feature, presenting Ordinary Angel’s story into a motion picture medium that’s honor the “based on a true story” narrative, while also reinforcing the core fundamental idealisms of the human spirit and perseverance of one’s faith during impossible odds.

For its presentation, Ordinary Angels gives a pleasing and grounded sense of real world realism of life living in Louisville, Kentucky circa 1994. Of course, a movie like this doesn’t require a massive production budget of large scale sets and elaborate locales to tell its story.  So, the film, which had a production budget of roughly $12-13 million, smartly utilizes his funding to make the feature’s background setting have enough personality and familiarity to make it believable and life-like, which does certain help blend the cinematic framing of the story, yet keeps one foot in reality. With principal photography taking place in both Winnipeg and Albany, Gunn and his team encapsulate life in the 1994’s Louisville quite effective and (again) keeps the film’s feet on the ground with that sense of the real world and not so heightened fanciful tale that’s made for silver screen presentation. Thus, the main “behind the scenes” players for the motion picture, including Nazgol Goshtasbpour (production design), Kathy McCoy (art direction), Sara McCudden (set decorations), and Heather Neale (costume design) should be praised for their efforts in bringing the film’s world to life with a touch of the pragmatism to the proceedings. While the setting might be steeped in real world authenticity, the cinematography work by Maya Bankovic should be commended for her filmmaking techniques to give the presentation of sense of cinematic quality throughout. Several big moments in the movie are arranged with flourishes of cinematics that help build upon the usage of made for a theatrical motion picture. Her work may not be nominated for any type of award events, but I do tip my hat to Bankovic’s work on this film. Lastly, the movie’s score, which was composed by Pancho Burgos-Goizueta is pretty good throughout the entire film and layers the picture with plenty of sentimental melodies and sweeps that will certainly tug at the heartstrings as well as bolster the narrative being told.

Unfortunately, Ordinary Angels does have a few missteps within its undertaking that, while not derailing the film in any way, does hold the feature back from reaching such lofty expectations and aspirations. How so? Well, for starters, the movie’s script (as a whole) does feel lacking a few key areas, with the tale being told, while compelling and relatable, is rather formulaic and predictable as to what’s going to happen. It’s not for a lack of trying from screenwriters Kelly Fremon Craig and Meg Tilly, who take the originally “real life” story of Sharon Stevens, Ed Schmitt, and how their unlike relationship came out through helping hands and strife and tries to frame it within the context of a faith-based motion picture. That being said, what’s presented is a bit generic and predictable, even for a faith-based presentation, with certain scenarios and storylines that the various characters face throughout the course of the narrative. It’s not uninspiring (quite the opposite really), but does breed that familiarity of scenarios that many viewers of seeing before. Thus, any type of surprise or twists that the writers try to sneak into the movie comes up a bit short.

Then there is the notion of the film being quite secular in its appeal, which is quite understandable, but can be a bit “off-putting” for some. It didn’t bother me as much, but after seeing several other faith-based movies prior to this (i.e. I Can Only ImagineOvercomerI Still Believe, Indivisible, etc.), this particular movie doesn’t really rise to the challenge and falls prey to being rather generic and flat for most of its runtime. As you can imagine, Ordinary Angels, while certainly sincere and meaningful in its storytelling, struggles to find a happy balance in its narrative and execution presentation.

In fact, Ordinary Angels seems a bit flat in the middle / second act and is indeed of more substance during this portion of the feature. While the introduction gives a good opening for the main plot and characters and the third act gives the payoff satisfaction of the whole story, the middle of the picture sort of meanders a bit too much with not much to go off of, stretching the movie a bit too long that intended. Moreover, the movie, because of that notion, does feel longer than intended to be. While the film’s runtime of 118 minutes (one hour and fifty-eight minutes) does seem like an appropriate runtime for a standard movie (under the two hour mark), the fact of the matter is that the film itself does feel longer than that, with (again) the middle portion of the story dragging on more than intended. Personally, I think it’s a combination of the writing aspect of the movie as well as Gunn’s direction, for the should’ve brought more focus on certain nuances in the story a bit better for a more tighter presentation of such an inspiring “feel good” movie. Again, it’s not for a lack of trying, but Ordinary Angels could’ve been better if certain threads were either cut, reduced, or rearranged better in the storyboarding process and in the actual execution of the feature.

As a minor criticism, the movie does a have bit too much emotional manipulation in a few areas that, while heightened the drama and what’s at stake, does leave some moments a bit manufactured, even for a faith-based drama. Given the main narrative being told, the type of movie that this is being presented in, and from the film’s movie trailer previews, I sort of knew that this was going to be case, so it didn’t bother me as much. However, I have a feeling that some out there might be a bit dispel the movie altogether by its sympathetic light of sad moments to garnish tears of emotion.

The cast in Ordinary Angels is relatively small, yet still quite effective in the movie, with the acting talent involved on this project up to the task in bringing these characters to life with such dramatic poise and humanizing characteristic to make them feel relatable to us…. the viewers. Leading the charge in the movie are the movie’s two main protagonist characters of Sharon Stevens and Ed Schmitt, who are played by actress Hilary Swank and Alan Ritchson respectfully. Of the two, Swank, who is known for her roles in Boys Don’t Cry, Freedom Writers, and Million Dollar Baby, is the more seasoned acting talent (and perhaps of the entire cast) and certainly does show that throughout the movie with her screen presence and acting chops. With Swank in the first lead role, the movie certainly does come together whenever she’s on-screen and taking the reigns on the leading the charge for the movie’s centerpiece. Swank hits all the right notes, marks, and emotion within her portrayal of Sharon Stevens, a woman who is down-on-her-luck and facing alcohol abuse do to her self-loathing about her past, which makes the character remarkable as she finds purpose in helping out Ed Schmitt’s financial worries. Sharon is definitely a multi-façade character, with Swank pulling out all the stunts in drama and emotion to make her performance gripping, relatable, and memorable. In the end, I won’t say that it is her absolute best performance of her career, but there is no denying that Swank does a solid job in playing the role Sharon Stevens, making for some compelling moments stick their intended landing with the quality talent playing her part well. Additionally, while he may only have a handful of scenes in the movie, I do have to admit that actor Dempsey Bryk (The Silence and Willow) does a good job in playing the character of Derek, Sharon’s estranged son.

Behind Swank, Ritchson, who is known for his roles in Reacher, Fast X, and Titans, has certainly become quite the recognizable acting star of late, with his portrayal of Jack Reacher giving him the chance to showcase talents on both the big and small screen platforms. Thus, given his spike in popularity as well as his personal religious faith background, Ritchson seems like the perfect casting choice to play such a character as Ed Schmitt, a blue collar / single parent who doesn’t express his feelings and who is still shattered by the loss of his wife. Given the nature of the movie’s narrative and potency that is shares with a faith-based drama, the character of Ed Schmitt definitely goes through a personal journey of self-discovery of his faith (renew and rekindled) as well as the inner turmoil that he feels about how his world is caving in all around him, trying to hold it up through his own means. Ritchson, who is already a giant of man, definitely embodies that persona quite beautiful in the movie and can easily display the right amount of manly gruffness and emotional vulnerability in whatever scene he’s in. Plus, while his scenes with Swank are definitely the true highlight of the movie (seeing the pair work together was great), Ritchson was also good at working alongside his younger co-stars, acting like a true dad-like character to them. Overall, I felt that Ritchson was great in the role of Ed Schmitt and definitely was a good character for him to bring to life on a cinematic level for both him (as an actor) and to the real life Ed Schmitt.

The other two main characters that deserve some praise in the movie are Ed Schmitt’s two young daughters (Michelle and Ashley), who are played by young acting talents Emily Michell (Out of My Mind and Women Talking) and Skywalker Hughes (Accused and Joe Pickett) respectfully. Of course, Hughes gets a lot of screen time attention throughout the movie, with Ashely’s illness showcasing the ups and downs in the narrative, which does display her acting ability in those moments of child-like levity and sorrowful / emotion scenes. Likewise, Mitchell does also a pretty good job in her portrayal of Michelle, who isn’t the main focus of the two Schmitt daughters, but does demonstrate the resilience and maturity for such a young girl, who is wrestling with emotions during such a turbulent time with her sister’s illness.

The rest of the cast, including actress Nancy Travis (Three Men and a Little Lady and So I Married an Axe Murder) as Ed’s mother Barbara Schmitt, actress Tamala Jones (Castle and Blue Streak) as Sharon’s friend Rose, actor Don Mike (Supergirl and Wedding of a Lifetime) as Rose’s cousin Kelvin, actor Ryan Allen (Between and Tokens) as Rose’s cousin Marcus, and actor Drew Powell (Gotham and Ray Donovan) as Pastor Dave, make up the remaining supportive characters in the film. While most have only a handful of scenes in the picture, the talent behind them is pretty good and does hold up within the context of the feature’s story.


Two individuals, who are haunted by their personal demons of the pasts, form an unlikely friendship with each other, and learn the importance of faith and hope in the movie Ordinary Angels. Director Jon Gunn’s latest film takes the miraculous “based on a true story” of the friendship found with Sharon Stevens and Ed Schmitt and translate it quite well within a emotional driven and heartwarming tale of hope, faith, and redemption; something that is quite befitting for a faith-based drama. Despite the movie having several narrative mechanics that come off as too predictable or rushed in a few areas, the film does offer a strong thematic message, with special thanks to Gunn’s direction, an inspiring tale of hope and forgiveness, a relatively good presentation, and some strong acting from the cast (most notable Swank and Ritchson). Personally, I liked this movie. Yes, one can easily tell that this movie is a faith-based drama through and through and does have moments where such emotional syrup-ness is lathered a bit too much as well as formulaic nature of the story. Still, I do have to say that such a presentation was definitely better than most faith-based dramas that I’ve seeing of late (not too cheesy and / or preachy) as the story was indeed moving and inspiring and the acting talents of Swank and Ritchson were terrific in it. Thus, my recommendation for this would be a solid “recommend” choice as you don’t have to a religious individual to enjoy and appreciate the sentiment and the faith humanity and the spirit of coming together. In the end, while it’s not a game changer in the grand scheme of things of real-life storytelling, Ordinary Angels showcases the indomitable power of the human spirit, intangible connection that people share through events, and, regardless of what faith you believe in, and that miracles can happen in the darkest hour of our lives.

4.1 Out of 5 (Recommended)


Released On: February 23rd, 2023
Reviewed On: April 25th, 2024

Ordinary Angels  is 118 minutes long and is rated PG for thematic content, brief bloody images, and smoking

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