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Review of Grace Unplugged: In the World but Not of the World

A film about a daughter who pursues her dream and a father who tries to protect her.
By Scott Williams

One of the most difficult phases in a family’s life cycle is when a child starts making decisions that are at odds with what mom or dad would choose. It’s a necessary part of growing up, part of developing skills that will allow a dependent child to eventually become a parent of dependents.

Even in the best of circumstances, it’s not an easy transition—for the parents or the child. In the worst of situations it looks a lot like Jesus’ story of the prodigal son. Grace Unplugged—set for release October 4—is a film that navigates one family’s journey down that difficult road.

Eighteen-year-old Grace Trey (AJ Michalka of singer-songwriters Aly & AJ) for years has co-led worship with her dad at their church in Alabama. Johnny Trey (James Denton) is a former big-name rock-n-roller who topped the charts right before his life hit bottom.  When he turned to Christ he also turned away from the spotlight—but that allure captures the attention of his talented daughter.

Out of the blue, Johnny’s former manager, Frank “Mossy” Mostin (Kevin Pollak), reappears with an idea for getting him back in the spotlight by recording a new version of his one big hit, followed by a glory tour. When Johnny humbly declines Mossy’s offer, Grace is floored.  She secretly records her own version of the song and sends it to Mossy, who offers to promote Grace in her recording career.

Grace’s dream of being a superstar musician starts to become reality.  With each new step toward the spotlight, Johnny grows more forceful in his attempts to rescue his daughter from the trappings of the high life. And in the process Grace grows more resentful of the father who is standing in the way of her dream and denying her all the perks he once enjoyed himself.

As you would expect, Grace’s fame has its price. Stardom rarely happens without compromise, and Grace finds herself blindsided by the choices she’s forced to make between fame and conviction. As the choices get harder, so does the pressure from those who have been “helping” her achieve her dream.

Grace Unplugged is a well-rounded film by Brad Silverman, who directed the 2009 film, No Greater Love. The unfolding plot, while predictable, comes across as natural and believable by using the music industry as an analogy to the wonders and the temptations of the world. The film avoids coming across as preachy against the evils of entertainment and tells a bigger story of being in the world but not of it.

Like Johnny, parents try to protect their children from falling for the same traps they did at that age. And like Grace, children need to find their place in the world for their passions and gifts. The over-arching message of the film is two-fold: that grace is the glue that holds family bonds together during these tough times of transition; and that in seeking to find ourselves, we should not lose track of the Father who created our talents and abilities and desires a relationship with us.

This is an excellent daddy-daughter date night choice, but also a film for parents and teens that can spark great discussions around many transcendent themes of family life.


Copyright © 2013 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

Click here to listen to an interview on FamilyLife Today® with the makers of Grace Unplugged, Russ Rice and Brad Silverman. Click here to visit the official website of Grace Unplugged. 

Meet the Author: Scott Williams

Scott Williams

Scott Williams is a senior writer for FamilyLife and received his journalism and Bible training from the University of Southern Mississippi and New Tribes Bible Institute, respectively. He and wife, Ellie, moved to Little Rock from Mississippi in 2004. Each of them received the legacy of lifelong marriage from their own parents—both couples were married over 60 years. Scott and Ellie have raised seven children and are now enjoying another generation in their grandchildren.



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