(director: Jon Gunn; screenwriters: Meg Tilly, Kelly Fremon Craig; cinematographer: Maya Bankovic; editor: Parker Adams; music: Pancho Burgos-Goizueta; cast: Hilary Swank (Sharon Stevens), Alan Ritchson (Ed Schmitt), Nancy Travis (Barbara Schmitt), Amy Acker (Theresa Schmitt), Tamala Jones (Rose), Drew Powell (Ed Schmitt), Emily Mitchell (Michele), Skywalker Hughes (Ashley Schmitt), Dempsey Bryk (Derek); Runtime: 116; MPAA Rating: PG; producers: David Beal, Jon Berg, Johnathan Dorfman, Kevin Downes, Andrew Erwin, Jon Erwin, Sarah E. Johnson, Dave Matthews; Lionsgate; 2024)

“About a saintly act of self-sacrifice that’s worth telling about.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

It’s based on a true story of a 5-year-old child of a widower, that took place in Louisville, Kentucky in 1994. Director Jon Gunn (“Like Dandelion Dust”/”The Week”) tries to keep the faith-based story as an emotionally moving and inspirational one. But the by-the-numbers script by the actress Meg Tilly and Kelly Fremon Craig is a cliched and feel-good one that brings on a weepie and cheesy narrative.

It’s about a saintly act of self-sacrifice that I wish was better executed and the script was better written.

The heroine is a troubled hairdresser named Sharon (Hilary Swank), with a big drinking problem, and a son (Dempsey Bryk) she’s estranged from but wants to reunite with but can’t because he despises her. Sharon’s bestie is co-worker Rose (Tamala Jones), who is concerned that even though Sharon attends AA meetings she won’t admit she’s an alcoholic. 

The taciturn roofer Ed Schmitt (Alan Ritchson) recently lost his wife to a rare disease that’s also now threatening the life of his youngest daughter Michelle (Emily Mitchell), who needs a liver transplant to survive. Ed is raising Michelle and her older sister Ashley (Skywalker Hughes) with the help of his own mother, Barbara (Nancy Travis), but without health insurance he’s stuck with big medical bills including the $6,000 bill for Michelle’s recent emergency room visit.

Sharon reads in the paper about Michelle and visits Ed at home, letting him know she will raise money for the kid’s medical bills. He hardly believes her, but soon after she starts a “Hair-O-Thon” fundraiser and the next time she sees Ed gives him a check for $3,200. That is only the beginning of her help, as she comes intertwined with the family.

What gives the film life is that Swank’s performance is so powerful, as she fights against her inner demons and her urge to do good even if she’s just an ordinary person.

In a remarkable scene, Sharon prevails to talk her way into getting hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills erased through a single conversation with the right party.

In the rousing climax, Sharon manages to make arrangements to get Michelle to her far away hospital operation site during a blizzard. The problem is she can only be transported on time by a private plane, and after securing the plane must get the two airports to agree on letting them grant permission to take off and land.

It’s a heart-warming story, but has many flaws-such as it overstays its welcome being at 116 minutes, the editing and pacing are poor, and it is too sugary.

REVIEWED ON 2/29/2024  GRADE: B-