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2012 | 98 min | PG-13 | 2.39:1



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Theatrical release date

 21 September, 2012

Country of origin

 United States

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Unconditional Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, September 26, 2012

There’s an enormous gust of passion blowing through “Unconditional,” though it seldom has the force to lift leaden scenes off the ground. Being a Christian production, its intention is peaceful enough, with a concentrated effort to reduce the audience to a puddle of tears through acts of goodness and confession. However, that aspiration to extract a massive amount of emotion from characters and viewers is clouded by scattered storytelling. “Unconditional” often goes out of its way to divert concentration from its most compelling subplots, trying hard to come across as an important movie on a myriad of topics. While strongly acted by stars Lynn Collins and Michael Ealy, it’s a clumsy picture that feels like it’s going to add up to more than it actually does.

Having lost her husband to a violent crime a few years back, author Samantha (Lynn Collins, “John Carter”) is suicidal, unable to cope with life after the death of her beloved spouse. Grieving at the spot of his murder, Samantha is there to help two kids, Macon (Kwesi Boakye) and Keisha (Gabriella Phillips), survive a car accident, unexpectedly tied to their lives when they request further visits. At the hospital, Samantha stumbles on childhood friend Joe (Michael Ealy, “Think Like a Man”), a community provider overseeing a group of children born in the projects of Nashville, while also suffering from the loss of kidney function, requiring constant attention from a dialysis machine. Reconnecting, Samantha and Joe return to the promise of their youth, where the young girl helped to save the boy’s life on multiple occasions. Now adults, the complexity of life is often too much for the duo to bear, instigating a rekindling of their friendship, while Samantha is terrified to learn the possible whereabouts of her late husband’s killer, who may be living right next door to Macon and Keisha.

Based on the life of Joe Bradford, “Unconditional” takes an extended amount of time to reveal the inspiration for its “true events.” Writer/director Brent McCorkle actually selects Samantha as the lead character, beginning the movie on her abyss of pain, observing the shattered woman contemplate ending her life with a handgun, flashing back to a better time with her husband and the promise of an idyllic life of artistic inspiration ahead of her. Samantha’s story soon transforms into a mystery of sorts, following the character’s attempts to deduce if the enigmatic neighbor is actually the killer she’s been hunting for, much to the irritation of the police (a local detective is played by Bruce McGill). It’s a convincing subplot too, with Collins communicating shock superbly, while McCorkle enticingly returns to developments in the trembling suspicion as the feature unfolds.

Unfortunately, “Unconditional” doesn’t remain in a position of investigation or mourning, instead sliding all over the place as the main characters reunite in their darkest hour, recalling their innocent time together as children, while Joe takes on a few more flashbacks of his own. The character’s stint in prison is detailed in an awkward scene of country music salvation, while the third act introduces fresh backstory for Joe that’s much too odd (apparently he was a computer genius who joined a team of hackers) to be simply washed away in a few lines of dialogue. “Unconditional” unwisely attempts to expand its scope, sweating to establish two handfuls of personalities with minimal screentime, often resorting to hokey acts of spiritual monologuing and the healing power of animal encounters to expedite resolutions, sold with synth blasts and breathless reactions.

“Unconditional” ends with a brief appearance by the real Joe Bradford, who urges viewers to consider volunteer time with at-risk youth. It’s a wonderful message of selflessness, yet it’s not a lesson McCorkle massages into the feature with any noticeable ease. In fact, the very reason for “Unconditional” is lost to swirling thoughts on responsibility, commitment, judgment, and kindness, with the screenplay using the peculiarity of a two dollar bill as a symbol for charity. It’s an overstuffed movie, though not without a few commendable scenes of searing drama and approachable grief to make it palatable.

Starring: Lynn Collins, Michael Ealy, Bruce McGill
Director: Brent McCorkle

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