‘Unsung Hero’ fosters a strong character-audience connection and prompts contemplation about your faith

By Esther Fultz

Have you ever been in a situation where you felt like everything that could possibly go wrong did? To be completely honest, I felt like I did last week when I left my phone at home and misplaced my Macbook charger at the same time and as a result missed a coffee date with my friend. If you can relate to this, the beginning of “Unsung Hero” depicts a situation you could consider similar – just a little more intense.

When talent manager David Smallbone’s career takes a turn for the worst, he makes a risky decision and moves from Australia to the United States with his pregnant wife, Helen, and their five young children. After getting stopped by customs, missing a flight and taking a train to Nashville, the family arrives at an apartment that isn’t furnished. To top everything off, David finds himself jobless the next morning, making the family’s intended temporary stay in the United States permanent.

This film is certainly emotionally captivating. In a world where we idolize our heroes and easily presume celebrities experience no personal difficulties, “Unsung Hero” brings the Smallbones – the family of the award winning music duo For King & Country – down to earth and effectively shows the humanity of each character. The film follows the family as they make new friends, start a lawn care and house cleaning business, welcome a new little sister and experience their first holidays in the United States. 

David wrestles with both shame and pride as well-meaning family friends provide a vehicle, cover medical bills, and buy Christmas gifts for his children. He seeks to protect his daughter, Rebecca, from experiencing a similar shame as she insists on auditioning for the record label of one of the family’s house cleaning clients, bringing tension to their relationship. After his father’s death, hitting rock bottom and giving up all hope of living a successful life in America, David finally comes around and realizes his focus has been on himself the entire time when it should have been centered around the Lord and his family.

Throughout “Unsung Hero,” I related strongly to the characters. Coming from a big family myself and moving several times throughout my childhood, I could feel the uncertainty and tension the characters experienced, the challenges of living in close quarters with limited resources, the secondhand embarrassment from silly “family things” like a special song thanking the Lord for their food and ultimately the love and support they had for one another through it all.

Joel Smallbone plays David, a man out of his depth struggling to provide for his family

I particularly related to Rebecca – the fearless dreamer who relentlessly pursues her goals, sees beyond her family’s immediate needs to what could eventually be, and fights against all odds to ultimately achieve great things. A songwriter myself all throughout high school, I also dreamed of playing music professionally. While those dreams obviously did not materialize, I still have a special place in my heart for aspiring musicians, songwriters and relentless dreamers.

One other nice aspect of “Unsung Hero” is how the role of the local church is a strong element mentioned throughout the film. The real Rebecca St. James and Luke Smallbone appear at the end of the film restating the importance of the local church in their family’s lives and viewers are encouraged to donate to Compassion International, an organization equipping local churches across the world to support children living in poverty.

Despite the strong emotional appeal and the relatability of the characters, I was disappointed with the plot of the film. I love plot twists and unexpected endings, but nothing about “Unsung Hero” truly surprised me. Every element of the plot – the poverty and inconveniences, the miraculous provision and unexpected kindness and the ultimate success and personal growth of each member of the family – was predictable. Granted, this is a true story so life itself can’t be critiqued, but the way it’s presented can be. At the end of the day, excessive creative liberties in this type of film bother me more than a predictable plot, so I wouldn’t necessarily consider this a failure on the filmmakers’ part. 

If you’re looking for novelty, creativity and a film that keeps you on the edge of your seat, “Unsung Hero” probably isn’t it. However, if you’re looking for an emotionally captivating film that quickly has you connecting with the characters and rooting for them that might just reveal something to you about your own family or faith, “Unsung Hero” is perfect. 

“Unsung Hero” will open in theaters on April 26

Esther Fultz is a senior Social Work major and the Off Campus Editor for Cedars. When she’s not writing or editing for Cedars she enjoys thrifting, making coffee, exploring new places, and spending time with friends.

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