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‘Unsung Hero’: Cheers and tears over God's provision (movie review)

Unsung Hero movie poster
Unsung Hero movie poster | Lionsgate

I had the opportunity to watch a preview of the movie “Unsung Hero” recently. As the movie unfolded, I realized I was watching another family tell a story like my own.

“Unsung Hero” documents the true adventures of David and Helen Smallbone — the parents of Christian music singer Rebecca St. James and Luke and Joel Smallbone from For King & Country. In the early 1990s, David owned a successful music company in Australia until an underperforming tour put him out of business. They lost everything they owned. They moved halfway across the world to Nashville with their six children (and one on the way!) for a new job that never materialized. The movie tells what happened next.

While we don’t work in the music business, Rich and I are creative professionals who spent 20 years building and running a fine art photo lab in California. Our business began in 1997 from a plywood desk in a spare bedroom of our house in Yosemite Valley (we worked at The Ansel Adams Gallery at the time). For its lifetime, we employed dozens and dozens of employees and shipped hundreds of thousands of prints to people across the nation. The prints we made continue to hang in some of the most prestigious galleries and photo collections in the world, including the Smithsonian.

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We poured our life into building that business, and it sustained us and our little family (and many others) for many years — until it didn’t. Our business went from the highest sales ever in 2015 to closing its doors in March 2017. The market changed, and it happened fast and decisively. There was no way to downsize quickly enough. Everything we invested our time, money, and effort in was systematically cataloged, valued, and sold.

In July 2017, we found ourselves in Nashville with three kids, two cats, two fish, and no job.  How does someone start over in their mid-40s? What do you put on a resume when you’ve spent 20 years working for yourselves in a niche, creative industry? I had a blog when we moved to Tennessee, and it contains accounts of God’s consistent provision through those first few difficult years — including my first job in Nashville and my current job as a writer and editor for our church’s media ministry.

Seven years later, I can see many reasons why God moved each member of our family to Tennessee. But it’s been hard in so many ways. That’s where “Unsung Hero” resonated with me. It perfectly captured the essence of what it is like to have everything of monetary value stripped away from your life and to be left with three things: God, your relationships, and your skills.

It portrayed what it looks like for God’s provision to come from unexpected sources, again, and again, and again.

It captured the feeling of failure and its determination to diminish any sense of hope; the internal battle between despair and perseverance.

It showed the best parts of people — those who stepped in at just the right time to provide encouragement, the necessities, and sometimes even more. And it portrayed the worst parts of people — those who judged, didn’t understand, excluded, or were simply no longer interested in being friendly (let alone friends).

It portrayed what it was like to be a mom navigating extremely challenging circumstances, persevering with as much cheer as possible, for the sake of her family and her children.

It showed parents failing and asking for forgiveness, and what it’s like to be a child, caught up in a significant and difficult family transition.

It captured what it’s like to be married to a creative and adventurous person, and how God will give that couple a path that looks different than traditional routes. Not many people will understand it. Those who do are priceless.

Beyond my own reaction to “Unsung Hero,” the cheers and tears in the audience around me showed the movie has truths to offer everyone:  family matters; God provides; God answers prayers; when you fall, do your best to get up; if you see someone fall, help them to stand; persevere; and faith wins!

But my favorite moment happened after the movie. In the lobby of the church, we found large pieces of glossy paper that had the words “Please” printed on the left and “Thank You” on the right. It came with a stack of Post-it notes. When you need God to answer a prayer, you put a post-it note with your prayer in the “Please” column. The “Thank You” section is for answered prayers.

When we arrived home, my 10-year-old son posted the paper on our kitchen wall and sat with the Post-it pad for a bit. After he went to bed, I saw he left a note: “Thank you, God, for providing everything we need. Amen.”

It’s easy to look at our lives and see places where we don’t seem to measure up. It took my 10-year-old to remind me we have everything we need. God is faithful.

I highly recommend going to see “Unsung Hero,” particularly on opening weekend, which is April 26 to 28. With all the trashy content being made by Hollywood, this is the time to vote with your presence in the movie theaters. There are so many amazing God stories for Christian movie producers to tell. Let’s support their efforts so God will be glorified, once again, at the movies.

Susan Seiling is a writer and editor based in Murfeesboro, Tennessee. For more information visit 

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