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Ordinary Angels: Film Review

Hilary Swank wears a warm hat and smiles in the film Ordinary Angels

Hilary Swank stars in Ordinary Angels, a heart wrenching true to life story of a father waiting for a liver transplant for his daughter to save her life.

Ordinary Angels tells the distressing yet sanguine true story of a young girl waiting for a liver transplant to save her life. Sharon Stevens, played by a superlative Hilary Swank, picks up a copy of The Courier-Journal, lured in by a front page news story that reads “5 year-old girl loses mother, in fight for her own life”. She instantly becomes absorbed into this article, buying a copy along with a pack of beers. Further down on the page, it’s revealed that the funeral for the girl’s mother is happening that very same day. Still dressed in last night’s gorgeously sparkly outfit, Sharon heads into the back of the funeral, trying to be as silent as possible whilst wearing blinding pink high heels that she can barely walk in.

Sharon develops a close connection with Michelle (Emily Mitchell), the girl from the newspaper, her sister Ashley (Skywalker Hughes), father Ed (Alan Ritchson) and the girls’ grandmother Barbara (Nancy Travis). Eager to help Ed pay for all the outstanding medical bills that the family owes, Sharon and her best-friend and colleague Rose (Tamala Jones) organise an event at the hairdressers they work at. The 24 hour ‘hair-a-thon’ is a success, which pushes Sharon to continue raising money for Michelle and Ed in any way that she can. Ritchson plays a believable father who has lost his wife and is on the cusp of losing his daughter. Whenever he has tears welling in his eyes, so do I.

Writers Kelly Fremon Craig and Meg Tilly have captured this real life narrative in such a special, candid way. Craig has a knack for encapsulating women’s stories on screen. She can write about both pre adolescent girls and teenagers, seen in Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. with 11 year-old Margaret (Abby Ryder Fortson) and The Edge of Seventeen with the isolated protagonist Nadine, but also headstrong mothers like Sharon in Ordinary Angels and Barbara in Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.. Sharon is a woman that you’d either want to be or be friends with, and it makes it that even more remarkable that she’s a real woman.

Alan Ritchson stands as “Ed Schmitt” while it's snowing in the film Ordinary Angels
Alan Ritchson as “Ed Schmitt” in the drama Ordinary Angels (Lionsgate)

There’s a can-do attitude, with an extremely likeable outlook on life that comes with Sharon’s persona. It’s easily comparable to Erin Brockovich (Julia Roberts) in Steven Soderbergh’s 2000s biopic. (Even her outfits are just as fabulous as Brockovich’s). This leads her to be a triumph with almost every business she gets in touch with for money. Whilst Ed and Barbara only see this side of her, she’s battling addiction at home. Sharon is estranged from her family, which is maybe why she finds so much comfort in spending time with Ed and his daughters. This doesn’t take away from the fact that she genuinely wants to help Michelle get the best out of her life.

Whilst Swank absolutely shines throughout as the lead in Ordinary Angels, the performances given by both Mitchell and Hughes are extremely graceful and worthy of note. Mitchell is especially noble here, making me fall in love with her yet again, the first instance being after watching her show-stealing execution of Miep in Women Talking. Michelle becomes increasingly fragile as the runtime continues, and Mitchell embodies that fragility adeptly.

Growing up is hard. Growing up without a parent is even harder. The bond between the family radiates in every second of the film’s 118 minute runtime. Ordinary Angels is a must-see which tackles everything from grief to addiction to the importance of family and friends.

Ordinary Angels was released in US theaters on February 23, 2024 and will be out in UK cinemas on April 26.

Ordinary Angels: Trailer (Lionsgate)
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