Reviewed By

Christopher Armstead
Samantha (Lynn Collins) loves Billy (Diego Klattenhoff).  Because Billy is awesome.  I mean in the history of awesome, righteous, stand up guys that have shown up in movies, you are going to be hard pressed to find somebody with the combination of spirituality, beauty, purity of heart, and all around good guy-ness than Billy possesses.  Thus as this movie 'Unconditional' starts, when we see Samantha, with a loaded gun, go to the spot where Billy was tragically murdered some years back, her intention to take her own life right there on that spot, we were thinking that maybe Sam should get it together.  But we didn't know Billy yet.  I'd almost marry Billy, even though I'm a dude, because that's how righteously awesome Billy was.

Samantha is broken out of this suicidal stupor when a young girl named Keisha (Gabriella Phillips) is hit by a car on this rainy night.  Samantha takes Keisha to the hospital, escorted by Keisha's older brother Macon (Kwesi Boakye) and by the chances of chances, runs into Joe (Michael Ealy).  Sam and Joe were best friends as kids, though they drifted apart as many do for no particular reason, but Joe is the caretaker of these kids and just for a moment Sam has found a slight diversion from the overwrought grief she experiences with every single moment of her waking life.

Now Joe is a pretty awesome dude too.  Maybe not quite Billy Awesome, but Joe is a righteous brother in his own right.  The kids in the downtrodden neighborhood he lives in call him 'Papa Joe' as Joe works with Denise (Danielle Lewis), a community outreach organizer in providing for the children of the neighborhood.  And Joe does all of this with two bum kidneys.  Joe seems to forget that he has two bum kidneys as he often pushes his dialysis treatments off until the last possible moment, but that's Joe.
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The good thing is that these kids and Joe have given Samantha a new lease on life.  At least a little bit, in the sense she doesn't want to kill herself anymore, but she's still depressed as all get out.  And then she sees Anthony (Cedric Pendleton) who Samantha is CONVINCED is the man who they never caught that killed her husband.  Absolutely convinced.  So convinced that she's kind of forgotten about the good will that the kids and Joe have brought to her life, and she's dedicated her life to bringing this dude to justice all by herself if necessary.  Unless… you know… he's not the guy.  But he has to be the guy.  Right?  I mean he wears a hoodie.

Samantha's obsession with this guy only worsens, Joe's kidney problem only worsens, and it's all going to come to a head until Samantha hears something she needed to hear.  She needed to hear it a long time ago to be honest with you, but she's hearing it now and we think everything is going to be all right.

It's going to be difficult for me to crap on writer / director Brent McCorkle's film 'Unconditional'… even though it often invites derision at frequent turns during its running time…  but it is so earnest and sweet and well meaning and totally unapologetic about all of this, that ultimately it all works.

It's also competent.  I mention this because I have seen my fair share of Christian themed movies which often come off as amateurish and have production values that are lacking despite the well meaning content of the film, but this is not an issue with 'Unconditional' which possesses a very talented and seasoned cast, and has a director who clearly understands the fundamentals of filmmaking and this is something we don't take for granted.  And for a Christian movie, for those of you out there who tend to avoid Christian themed films, admittedly the themes are light, in that it is not preachy, but leaning more towards faith born out of experience. 

Now the way the plot hums along, there are contrivances and clichés and elements on a level of sentimentality that seems to be trying to forcibly wring the tears from our eyes, and the characters in this film dangerously straddle the line from being real characters to just caricatures of actual people, but casting saves this from actually taking place.  Michael Ealy and Lynn Collins are able to effectively infuse life into these characters so that they come off as more than just damaged nice guy trying to help people and the sad pathetic woman in need of saving.  If you had to focus on one thing that 'Unconditional' has going for it, it is its cast, from top to bottom, putting in solid work to bring their characters to life.

It is a melodrama, sometimes overwrought, there are circumstances and coincidences and narrative crutches that McCorkle leans on once or twice too often, this we really can't deny.  But at the end of it all, 'Unconditional' is a good movie that left me with a good feeling after the final credits rolled, and there aren't a lot of movies out there that can say this.
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