Following the success of “Jesus Revolution,” the latest film from Kingdom Story Company, “Ordinary Angels,” sheds light on the power of community and how serving others emphasizes the transformative power of the Gospel. The film stars Hilary Swank as Sharon Stevens, a hairdresser from a small Kentucky town battling her demons.
When we first meet Sharon, she’s drunk, dancing on top of the bar and out of control. Her friend, Rose, is so concerned about her that she essentially drags her to Alcoholics Anonymous. Ed Schmidt lost his 29-year-old wife to a respiratory illness a few years prior and had to raise his daughters under 5. One of his daughters, Michelle, suffered from a deadly liver condition called biliary atresia, requiring a liver transplant to survive. Adding to the family’s crisis were mounds of insurmountable medical bills. After the meeting, Sharon reads about Michelle and attends a memorial for Michelle’s mother.
Sharon’s life changes when she meets Ed Schmidt, a widower who works tirelessly to support his daughters. While attending the memorial, the pastor told attendees to find a way to help the family, which truly resonated with Sharon, and she became determined to help the family. She talks to Ed and tells him to let her know how she can help the family and get the money for Michelle’s transplant, which she thinks is her God-given purpose.
From that point on, Sharon hits the ground running to help the Schmidt family. She holds a fundraising event at her hair salon, helps Ed with his business and even helps Ed with the girls. Initially, Ed is reluctant to accept Sharon’s help, but his mother helps him along the way, telling him that he shouldn’t stop his blessing.
The true story behind “Ordinary Angels.”
Based on a true story, “Ordinary Angels” shares a heartwarming story of unexpected blessings, beliefs, and the angels among us. In an interview with the Christian Post, producer Kevin Downes said, “It's an inspiring, true story that really highlights the power of a community working together to serve one another and never giving up. So many times when we hit challenges in our lives, we give up and say, 'This is too hard. I don't want to do this, even though the outcome would best be served if we didn't give up.'"
He continued, "What's so inspiring about Sharon is we're able to see things through to the end. This young girl's life was impacted just because Sharon decided, 'I'm going to serve, I'm going to put my own selfish desires down for a minute go and support this family in a way that is totally unexpected.' There are people out there where life hasn't gone their way, and just a simple hand or word might encourage them in a way that could change their trajectory."
The tale behind "Ordinary Angels" occurred in January 1994, when a devastating snowstorm shut down Louisville, Kentucky. The storm brought Louisville to a standstill. At the same time, a liver became available, and a very sick Michelle needed to get to Omaha, Nebraska. Determined to help Ed secure a liver transplant for Michelle, Sharon rallies the community to help the family get to a hospital 600 miles away in Omaha. Swank described the story as "almost stranger and more beautiful than fiction," adding, "I wish there were more movies like this. I completely believe there are angels amongst us."
The film is based on a memoir with the same title written by the real Sharon Evans. The movie was filmed in Canada, and Evans could visit the set. She told the Courier-Journal, "Hilary Swank is an angel. She played me to perfection. I am a what you see is what you get kind of person, and she captured that perfectly. Evans added that the producers and directors were willing to work with her to depict her story on the big screen accurately. She said, "I wasn't shocked when they wanted to turn this book into a movie because it's an incredible story of unity. Louisville is my hometown, and I am very, very proud of it."
Why movies like "Ordinary Angels" matter.
Downes stressed that the film speaks overwhelmingly to Christian audiences, but it's a story that will resonate with many, especially coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic. He continued, "I hope this film encourages people, whether through their church or community, to ask, 'How are you doing today? Is there something that I can do for you today that would make a difference?' It's the opportunity to go and die to yourself and to serve other people, to serve other human beings out there."
The producer added, "I think that's something that we can all relate to no matter what your faith is. But for a Christian audience, this is a message that I hear on Sundays quite frequently: How can we serve our neighborhoods, our community, in a way that puts the Body of Christ front and center?" Tragically, Michelle Schmidt died three years ago but survived for 30 years with a donated kidney and liver. Ashely Schmidt, Michelle's sister, said the movie "Ordinary Angels" helps keep Michelle's memory alive while promoting the importance of organ donation and agencies like the Kentucky Organ Donation Affiliates.
Schmidt added, "With Michelle passing away a couple of years ago, this movie will keep her memory alive. People who didn't know her story or the importance of organ donation will understand that now. That's not something everyone gets when a family member passes away, and that's something my family feels is really special."
Sharon Evans’ life was on a completely different track. She was drinking and going down the wrong track. However, one encounter with a struggling family turned her life around and gave her purpose. Instead of continuing down her destructive path, she became an “ordinary angel” for the Schmidt family. This film shows that you don’t have to be in a powerful position to make a difference in your community. The Schmidt family and Sharon Evans are still close today.