Ordinary Angels review – heartwarming rescue from the horrors of the US healthcare system – The Guardian

Alan Ritchson is impressive as a father who can’t pay his desperately sick child’s hospital fees, but the good-neighbour plot ignores a bigger question
If you’re familiar with Alan Ritchson from his turn as Jack Reacher in the Amazon series based on the phenomenally popular Lee Child thrillers, get ready to see a different side of him in this weepy based on a true story. He’s once more playing a large, taciturn man (whether, per Reacher, his hands are still “as big as dinner plates” is not addressed), but here his problems cannot be solved by hitting things. Grieving the recent death of his wife, and drowning in debt from hospital bills, he’s devastated by the news that his youngest daughter may have only weeks or months to live, due to a condition related to that which claimed the life of her mother. Her only hope is yet more expensive treatment.
The revelation that a loud hairdresser with a drinking problem and zero sense of personal boundaries (played, effectively, by Hilary Swank at her most Dolly Parton), has read about his case in the local newspaper and decided to make the unfortunate family her personal recovery project is not immediately welcomed by the gruff widower. There’s an interesting moral tension at work here: the self-appointed saviour is legitimately helpful, raising thousands of dollars, but she will not take no for an answer, and the unsolicited intrusion crosses the line at several points. And yet … her interventions, taken as a whole, do vastly more good than harm.
Of course, the real villain of the piece is the American healthcare system; this is not a story that could be set in Europe. That a system exists where it is even possible to owe more than $400,000 to a hospital is the stuff of dystopian nightmares, but this film isn’t in the business of confronting the politics around the family’s predicament. Directed by Jon Gunn and written by Meg Tilly and Kelly Fremon Craig, the heartwarming spectacle of a maverick force for good rallying an entire community to save one unfortunate family makes for better drama than questioning why that family is in need of saving in the first place. Taken on its own terms as an old-fashioned character drama and showcase for Ritchson as a dramatic actor (he’s genuinely really good), it does the job it set out to do.
Ordinary Angels is in UK and Irish cinemas from 26 April.


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