“Unconditional” is a movie about faith with a big and small F: faith in others and faith in a higher power.
Sam (Lynn Collins) is an award-winning children’s book author whose world stops when her husband is shot to death in an inner-city robbery. Before that fateful night, she was the picture of optimism; after, she’s drained of all hope.
Distraught over the inability of the police to find the killer and beyond sorrow over her loss, Sam returns to the scene of the crime to end her own life there, too – when, in the pouring rain, she sees a little girl dash across the street and get hit by a speeding car. Sam puts down the gun and rushes over to help the girl and her young brother.
At the hospital, a man arrives to check on the girl, and he turns out to be Joe (Michael Ealy), Sam’s closest friend from childhood, whom she lost track of years ago. Now living in the inner city, Joe spends his days finding ways to keep neighborhoods kids engaged and positive, even as he’s hooked up to dialysis to keep his failing kidneys working.
As Sam is shaken out of her stupor by spending time with “Papa Joe” and the kids, she slowly comes back to life – until an encounter with a man who might be her husband’s killer threatens to take her back to the dark place she’s been since the tragedy.
Make no mistake: “Unconditional,” inspired by a true story, is a movie with a message. And first-time feature-film writer-director Brent McCorkle has his characters repeat it often (“there’s enough love to go around – you’ve just got to share it”), both to each other and to the audience.
One thing McCorkle’s movie doesn’t do, however, is preach. As in many movies about the power of faith, characters talk about how they got to their beliefs a lot in “Unconditional,” but each time, it’s more like a conversation with someone still trying to understand the experience himself – making the message more potent in the process.
And something else you don’t see that often: In a movie centered on (but barely talking specifically about) the power of God’s love, “Unconditional” has that love surface in little but vital ways in people rich and poor, successful and struggling, white and black, young and old, in a way that feels heartfelt, not calculated.
In a year where what divides us seems to get more attention than what unites us, it’s enough to restore your, well, faith.