Unsung Hero Honors the Australian Matriarch of the Smallbone Family

Unsung Hero is a family-friendly film about the Australian David Smallbone family, who arrived in the United States on a six-month tourist visa in the early 1990s. David Smallbone had a thriving music business in Australia and was known in the United States for his work. He lost a contract, which hurt his business reputation and the family’s financial well-being. David’s wife, Helen, did not want the family separated for six months while her husband visited with his contacts in Nashville, Tennessee.

Suppose the Smallbone surname does not sound familiar initially. In that case, the vocalist’s stage name, Rebecca St. James, and the Grammy-winning Christian pop duo For King + Country, comprised of brothers Joel and Luke Smallbone, may sound more familiar.

Unsung Hero is co-directed by Richard Ramsey and Joel Smallbone, who is making his directorial debut. Both directors co-authored the script, which is based on the Smallbone family’s real-life experiences.

In the film, we see a family in the US who struggles to make ends meet, and Helen (Daisy Betts) is supportive of her husband (played by Joel Smallbone) and children throughout the challenges over an undisclosed amount of time. It needs to be clarified whether what is revealed in the film is only during the initial six months of the visa or if there are extensions for their stay in this country. This timeline is not clear in the narrative, so it is not clear how long it takes for David to try to establish himself, nor how long it takes for him to recognize all the talent within his children, starting with his eldest daughter, Rebecca (Kirrilee Berger), as a vocalist and his various sons with musical and other skills.

They are a faithful church-going family, so find a church with a caring congregation. While Helen does all she can to hold the family together with six children and one on the way, David has an ego that gets in the way more than once. Jed Albright (Lucas Black) and his wife Kay (Candace Cameron Bure) become friends from the start of the Smallbone family joining the church. The Albright and other church families are generous and giving, especially during the holidays. The audience can see how David does not hold up well during the long run of their stay, unfortunately, towards those who are so supportive of his children. Some of the narratives may have what may appear to be “sugar-coated,” as others use the term, but to see David unraveling seems to be a more accurate representation of how stress and emotions take a toll on families and friends. Helen and the children keep the faith, pray, and announce their belief in prayers answered when good things are received.

The story continues when Rebecca continues to pursue music, and David decides to ask for help from a friend in the industry, Eddie DeGarmo (Jonathan Jackson). He listens to his daughter sing and then selects her stage name, Rebecca St. James. The film ends with grown-up versions of Joel and Luke Smallbone as the duo For King & Country become Christian recording artists.

This family drama also has some version of a music biopic. While the script may have some details missing, it is still an interesting film to be acquainted with some history of these young musical artists.

MPA rating: PG (for thematic elements), Running time: 1:54. In theaters from Lionsgate on April 26, 2024.

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