In "Unconditional," the inspirational tale of a chance, life-altering reunion between grade school friends Samantha "Sam" Crawford (Lynn Collins), a children's author haunted by her husband's senseless murder, and Joe Bradford (Michael Ealy), a kind of Pied Piper of the housing projects, writer-director-editor Brent McCorkle works so hard at being authentic that the results often prove anything but.
The filmmaker is clearly well-intended but, along with a rather knee-jerk portrayal of race and racism, his on-the-nose script can't escape the "white savior" trap as the better-off Sam brings light and largesse (she has a horse!) to "Papa Joe's" needy, lockstep-cheerful kids. Joe also recounts three separate times Sam "saved his life" — she's that amazing.
McCorkle also piles on the pain. There's Sam's abortive suicide attempt and agonizing writer's block; Joe's failing kidneys, unfair prison sentence, poverty and fatherlessness (he's inspired by a real person, but even so); a child's traumatic mutism, a caregiver's alcoholism and more.
An over-illustrative use of flashbacks is another misstep as is a contrived red herring involving Sam's husband's killer. Platitudes about love and God abound as well.