This movie doesn't feel like most Christian movies.
It doesn't matter if someone is in the projects or in solitary confinement for 40 days and nights.
The movie "Unconditional" shows that God's love is always there. And that no one is alone.
"Unconditional" tells the story of Samantha and Joe and how, through many events – some traumatic, others touching – they were able to turn anything life threw at them into an opportunity to reach out to others, especially, as to whom the movie focused, kids who are in need of role models.
"Unconditional" will feel too preachy at times, but that's okay. This movie doesn't feel like most Christian movies. Rather, there is a good sense of realism (perhaps it helps that the movie is based on real-life events) and that the message not only is practical, but can be life-changing. And while the film may have missed some opportunities to create a real sense of drama (only in a couple scenes, though), the conclusion is emotional and ties the storylines together well.
Through a quick series of seemingly contrived circumstances, Samantha saves the life of a little girl, Keisha, who was hit by a car in the street. Samantha races her to the hospital to save her. While there, Samantha crosses paths with Joe Bradford, a friend of hers from grade school.
After reuniting, Samantha observes that Joe has taken a different path than she might have expected. Whether by learning the hard way after going to prison or because of health issues, somewhere along the way Joe discovered his calling in life. While working with kids who are less fortunate or without a good home life (most of them live in the projects), Joe is a shining ray of God's love. The scenes with Joe (played well by Michael Ealy, who has been in movies such as "Think Like A Man" and "Seven Pounds") and the children are genuine and warming. One kid even makes a funny off-hand joke that alleviates the pressure of racial tension that undoubtedly is built but doesn't become a central them.
Samantha, on the other hand, has fallen off the path. She loses her faith after her husband gets killed in cold blood in an alley. As the main plot of the movie unfolds, it becomes apparent that Samantha is fueled by revenge and justice. But as she joins Joe's effort to help the children, including Keisha, Samantha not only learns how to let go of her anger, but also understands the importance of love being victorious.
The slow pace of "Unconditional" serves it well. Brent McCorkle, the writer, director and editor of the film, uses flashbacks (some perhaps a little longer than necessary) to fill in gaps of the story as the information becomes relevant to the characters in their current situations. These flashbacks also reveal the special bond Samantha and Joe had as kids, a bond that cannot be overstated enough.
Here is to hoping McCorkle gets more opportunities to create movies with powerful stories that don't come across as preaching-to-the-choir clichés.
Jeremy Costello is the Gazette Sports Editor and Entertainment Guru. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at Twitter, @jdotco.