top of page

'Inspirational and moving': Film Review of 'Unsung Hero'


 By Kristina Cooper

Rebecca St James and her brothers Luke and Joel Smallbone, who make up the duo  King and Country, are well known figures on the American Christian music scene.  ‘Unsung Hero’ tells the story of their family’s arrival from Australia in 1991. Joel, as well as directing and writing the script (with Richard Ramsey), plays his own father in the film. It’s clearly a family production, with other members working behind the scenes or playing cameo roles like Rebecca, who is seen briefly as a Quantas air hostess on the family’s flight over to America.

This could have resulted in a boring, smug vanity project. Thankfully the film is an inspirational and moving story ( tissue alert!) about the importance of faith and family. It's a kind of Waltons for the 21st century, and it is very comforting to know that, even today, such families exist. Although one of the strands of the story line is about how Rebecca,  who has a beautiful voice, gets discovered, this is not the main thrust of the film. Rather it is a homage to  their remarkable stay at home mother,  Helen, who is the “Unsung Hero” of the title.

Courage, resourcefulness and faith in God

For, as the film shows. it is her courage and resourcefulness and faith in God, that help the family to survive when they find themselves stranded and penniless in Nashville, when her husband’s business fails. If she is the heroine, the arc of story follows the spiritual journey of her husband David. At the beginning of the film he is a driven music mogul, full of dreams, unaware of the cost his family, particularly his wife, is paying for his ambition.  Then everything crashes and he has to start again. He is frantic. But as his father tells him at one point: “Your family are not in the way – they are the way.”

Watch the trailer for 'Unsung Hero' here:

 A sense of joy and comradeship

And so they prove in more ways than one. Following their mother’s lead, the six children,  rise to the challenge to provide for the family in their new straightened circumstances, doing odd jobs  cleaning houses and gardening. The work may be hard but there is a sense of joy and comradeship in it all missing in the luxury life they had before.  It is their  father, David, who finds this change in their fortunes the most difficult to cope with.  This is particularly galling when one of the clients the family ends up  house cleaning for turns out to be a former record business associate of his.


What I found so encouraging about the film was the portrayal of prayer in their normal family life. It brought me back to a time in my own Christian walk, when I worked in a Christian children’s home in Panama, We, too, would pray for our everyday needs like the Smallbones do in the film and  have the same joy of seeing how God provided.


At a time when there is so much anxiety about the cost of living and parents worrying about their children, this film provides the  reassurance of God’s presence when times are hard. The film shows that suffering and hardship, if met with the right spirit and trust in God, often strengthens and purifies rather than destroys.  No wonder after such a formative experience in their childhood,  despite their worldly success in later life,  the Smallbones have all remained close to one another and are all still strong practising Christians. A wonderful warm bath of a film and a tribute to mums everywhere, who sacrifice their lives for their children, wondering if they are making any impact at all. 


bottom of page