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Movie Review: Unsung Hero

Movie Review: Unsung Hero (by Rick McConnell)

Anyone who has spent time in the Christian music industry has heard some of the backstories of the Smallbone family from Australia, out of which came the renowned artist Rebecca St. James, followed by her younger brothers, Luke and Joel, a.k.a. “for King & Country”. Now the full inspiring story is coming to theatres. Buckle your seatbelts. the snippets of stories you have heard won’t prepare you for the whole touching story told in the new movie, “Unsung Hero.” (Lionsgate Films)

David Smallbone, (the father of the three artists mentioned) was the most successful Christian concert promoter in Australia.  He had his pick of who he wanted to promote. He chose at times big name performers over some of the lesser known “has been” artists, burning a few bridges along the way. You will see later that one of the artists on the other side of a burned bridge will turn out to be a key player that launched the amazing careers of his children. (A subtle storyline of how a burned bridge, and a dose of forgiveness, can be a launching pad of something truly great.)

Smallbone (played extremely well by his real-life son, Joel of “for King & Country”) made the biggest financial gamble of his life booking a massive Australian tour with the most well-known Christian artist in the world at the time. He, of course, could not see the economic crash lurking just around the corner. The resulting fallout forced the family to move to the U.S. just to snag one of the few business opportunities left to keep his large family afloat. From there, things only went from bad to worse.

The movie reveals a few raw glimpses of the ugly underbelly of the Christian music concert and record industry. Some of this mess stung the Smallbone Family when they were most vulnerable. It almost destroyed their lives. Seeing their dreams shattered, then facing setback after setback as they merely tried to survive financially, is painful to watch.  But their reaction as a family was profound.

That’s where the movie really shows a lot of truth about how families work in real life. It was a crushing humiliation for dad to watch his family hustle just to put food on the table. As David was in a downward spiral this is where the amazing spirit of his wife Helen, (played by Daisy Betts) shines through. When he can no longer be there emotionally for the children, Helen becomes the unsung hero behind the amazing story of their family.  

In today’s world where family members isolate with their electronic devices, video games, and live streaming, we finally get to see something refreshing here. They were forced to work as one unit. Had that failed, their family would not make it. There was no time for self-pity. It was touching to see their teamwork and God’s repeated answers to their humble prayers. The stories of Rebecca St. James and For King and Country would have never happened had they not faced these fiery trials that forged their young spirits.

David’s bitterness at the treatment he had received in the Christian music industry resulted in an angry reaction when his young teenage daughter Rebecca (played by Kirrilee Berger) talked of her aspirations of becoming a Christan music artist. David’s desire to protect her at times caused him to lash out at her dreams. (Of course, Rebecca later went by the stage name Rebecca St. James. You also get to finally see how another veteran Christian artist gave her the nudge toward that stage name.)

The movie is a lesson for children, teens, and adults on how to handle failure. The stuff of real life. It’s also about a resilient love between a husband and a wife.  When the husband’s spirit has died, his wife must become the flame of optimism for the children. (One dramatic lesson in which Helen led the children in an adventurous game, later became the inspiration for the song “Burn the Ships” by “for King & Country”)

Fans of Rebecca St. James will appreciate seeing the bold mind and heart of the young teen that you may have never known about. You will see the powerhouse duo “for King & Country” as hard working and determined little boys that were learning simple lessons of faith; lessons like God providing a meal or discount coupons when they barely had enough money for food, a life, long before sold out concerts and Grammy and Dove awards.

Other actors starring in roles and cameo shots were Candace Cameron Bure, Hillary Scott (of the band “Lady A”), and even the REAL Rebecca St. James.

Everyone in the theater will be left wanting to get back to the roots of their faith and hold more tightly to their familial bonds no matter what kind of trials they are facing. In our day of shifting values, you will find a deep satisfaction in seeing that “FAMILY” is the real hero in Unsung Hero.  (Release Date April 26, 2024)

-Rick McConnell is founder of Monumental Studios in Denver, Colorado. Reach Rick at

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