Unsung Hero

[L-R] Joel Smallbone as “David Smallbone” and Daisy Betts as “Helen Smallbone” in the drama UNSUNG HERO, a Lionsgate release. Photo courtesy of Lionsgate.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I agreed to review Unsung Hero. With Terry O’Quinn and Candace Cameron Bure in it, I was willing to take a chance, even if it was a faith-based film. That’s where my biggest hang up was. I enjoy most biopics and I adore films filled with music, but I find some faith-based films are very “in your face.” Thankfully, that was not the case with Unsung Hero. While it was obvious that there was a religious slant to the film, it was, for the most part, rather subtle and, instead, the film was allowed to stand on its own.

The film follows the Smallbone family whose patriarch, David (Joel Smallbone), loses everything the family has by booking a two week Australian tour for Christian singer, Amy Grant. Chasing a possible job, the family leaves Australia for the US, only to discover that the potential job no longer exists. The film looks at how the family – pregnant mother, father, and six children – come together to survive and, eventually, thrive in the face of hardship. The early days of their arrival are filled with devastation and disappointing moments, but matriarch Helen (Daisy Betts) does everything she can to keep the family happy. Through their love for each other and God, and with the help of their neighbours and church, the family survives some very dark times.

The film is a biopic, which means that someone from the film must be known by at least a few people. While the Unsung Hero in this film is clearly Helen Smallbone, the film itself exists because Helen and David’s daughter, Rebecca Jean Smallbone, would go on to become Christian artist Rebecca St. James. Her journey is the center point of the story, but she is not the only famous member of the family. Rebecca’s brothers Luke and Joel would eventually become the duo known as for KING + COUNTRY.

As I said, I wasn’t sure what to expect going into the film, but I came away pleasantly surprised. I really enjoyed the movie for what it was… a simple, quaint story about a family whose love for each other and faith in religion helped them to survive. As I mentioned, the religion was subtle. It was always there, but never overwhelming – a thread that tied everything together. The story and family drama were touching and the emotions that were shown were real and felt very raw. I was surprised by how amazing everyone’s performances were. The dialogue and day-to-day actions of the family and their friends were more than enough to keep me teary eyed for the majority of the film. To me, the ability for a film to elicit that much catharsis is a clear indicator that the film was well written, well directed, and well acted.

The acting is something, in particular, that I want to call attention to. Joel Smallbone had to play his father on screen and David Smallbone is not, if I’m being completely honest, a likeable person. It was genuinely surprising to me that Joe was able to play David given how the character comes across… more so, I’m surprised he was able to write his father as such a negative character. I guess that’s what you need to do when you want to tell a true story. Joel’s performance was top notch and he was only outdone by Daisy Betts, playing his wife Helen. Daisy was fantastic and responsible for so many of the emotions that the film evoked. While all the children were great, it was clear that the roles written for Rebecca, Joel, and Luke were at the forefront of the writers’ minds. Rebecca, played by Kirrilee Berger, did a great job and, if that was her voice, is an incredible singer. I look forward to seeing what else she does in the future. Finally having Terry O’Quinn, who you can’t help but love, and Candace Cameron Bure, who will forever be DJ Tanner to an entire generation, added so much to the film… name recognition goes a long way toward convincing some people to watch specific films and I think they are critical to bringing in viewers for this film. With that said, once the viewers start into the film, it stands on its own and really doesn’t need the big name draw… it just exists and that’s all it needs to do.

Unsung Hero will be available in theatres nationwide on April 26, 2024.

Unsung Hero

Movie title: Unsung Hero

Movie description: Based on a remarkable true story, Unsung Hero follows David Smallbone as he moves his family from “Down Under” to the United States, searching for a brighter future after his successful music company collapses. With nothing more than their seven children, suitcases, and their love of music, David (for KING + COUNTRY’s Joel Smallbone) and his pregnant wife, Helen (Daisy Betts), set out to rebuild their lives. Helen’s faith stands against all odds and inspires her husband and children to hold onto theirs. With their own dreams on hold, David and Helen begin to realize the musical prowess in their children, who will go on to become two of the most successful acts in Inspirational Music history: five-time GRAMMY Award®-winning artists for KING + COUNTRY and Rebecca St. James.

Date published: 2024-04-26

Director(s): Richard L. Ramsey, Joel Smallbone

Actor(s): Daisy Betts, Joel Smallbone, Kirrilee Berger, Jonathan Jackson, Lucas Black, Candace Cameron Bure, Terry O’Quinn

Genre: Drama, Faith

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