Movies about love rarely show audiences what happens after a couple says, “I do.” The tension is usually centered on whether or not the guy and the girl will stay together. What happens when they’re already married, have seven children together, and divorce is off the table? 

That’s not the kind of premise you expect to come out of Hollywood today, but it’s the backdrop of Unsung Hero, a heartwarming drama based on the real-life family of three Christian music stars.

Those who listen to contemporary Christian music will recognize the names Rebecca St. James and For King & Country. St. James and For King & Country’s Joel and Luke Smallbone are three of seven Smallbone siblings. Their music is listened to by millions each month. Both groups are Grammy Award winners. Now, the brothers are movie producers, and Joel Smallbone stars in Unsung Hero as his own father, David. 

At the beginning of the film, the Smallbones have it made. They live in a sprawling mansion in Sydney, Australia, with extended family nearby. David is building a successful career in the music industry, and his wife, Helen, is pregnant with their seventh child. Then, in 1991, it all falls apart. David puts the family’s savings on the line for an Amy Grant in Australia tour that falls flat. For him to continue his career, he says, they must move halfway across the world to Nashville, Tennessee. 

Helen is the family’s backbone, supporting her husband for richer or poorer and always prioritizing family unity. When David suggests he could go to Nashville and the family could follow in a few months, Helen interjects, “No, we don’t break up the family. We stay together.”

When they arrive in Nashville, however, David’s path to success still isn’t clear. The family is sleeping on the floor of their new home. They pick up odd jobs, cleaning homes and mowing lawns to get by. Throughout it all — the washing clothes in the bathtub, the putting sticky notes on the wall to keep track of their needs and blessings — Helen’s faith never wavers, nor does her devotion to her family. 

“Every adventure has perils and pitfalls,” she says to her children when she and David explain that they’ll have to pitch in to keep the family afloat. “And pirates!” one suggests, contributing a helpful dose of whimsy. David’s father is similarly supportive, repeating to his son over the phone this line from Rudyard Kipling’s If: “If you can dream — and not make dreams your master.” The ending to that poem, of course, being, ”You’ll be a Man, my son!”

Even when David’s pride becomes an obstacle to the family’s happiness, there is never a question of whether the family will split up. Helen supports David through a bout of depression after his father’s death. At one point, when she needs some air, she takes the children to the park to play pirates. When Rebecca gets her big break as an artist, audiences can breathe a sigh of relief like spectators watching a recorded championship game — not because they are wondering if their team will make it through, but because they’re excited to see the people they’ve been rooting for score the final goal. 

“With this film, I tried to go as close to the heart of the story as possible so that it would relate to as many people as possible,” said Joel Smallbone, who co-directed and co-wrote the film. “Really, at the heart of it, it’s a film for the family.” 

Unsung Hero is a film for family about family, and one that may wring a tear or two from its viewers. In a landscape full of films glorifying infidelity or hyper-individualization or nothing at all, it’s high time for a new movie celebrating families. Best of all, it’s a true story, which means it’s not just fairy tales that end with happily ever after.