Small Group

In the Christian dramedy Small Group (2018), an agnostic filmmaker named Roman Scott Cooper (Sterling Hurst) goes undercover to explore evangelical religion. His producer Ballard (Robert Riechel Jr.) wants him to blow the lid off the church by creating a muckraking expose. But Scott’s conscience gets in the way of the project as he bonds with the kindhearted, flawed but accepting believers.

"One doesn’t have to be a Christian to empathize with the characters. The situations have moral complexity, provoking thought from both believers and unbelievers"

Small Group starts out with an overall comic tone by poking gentle, self-deprecating fun at the disconnect between Christians and secular culture. It changes direction when the group goes on a mission trip to Guatemala, taking a turn for the dramatic and disturbing. The young men they try to reach live amidst violence and poverty. All along, filmmaker Scott documents the mission trip. Then tragedy strikes: his wife Mary miscarries their baby girl. Scott’s believing friends rally around the couple, surrounding them with love and support. So when the believers see footage of the damning and sleazy documentary Ballard has put together, they feel blindsided by their new friend’s betrayal.

This film’s target audience is Christian, but to its credit it also appeals to outsiders. There are no stereotypical villainous unbelievers, although Scott’s producer comes close. But even he receives a measure of depth and sympathetic treatment. The Christians too come across as ordinary people doing their best, neither saints nor devils in disguise. When Scott’s deception is exposed, they’re understandably hurt and angry. Will they forgive Scott in obedience to Jesus’s admonition to forgive others “seventy-seven times”? Will Scott’s fledgling friendships with the group members survive?Small Group

Director Matt Chastain plays believer Shane Baxter, the most colorful character of the group. Shane of all people has reason to reject Scott, as some of the documentary’s worst attacks focus on him. Shane’s sense of humor is irreverent and sarcastic; when taken out of context, his jokes paint an ugly portrait of Christians. But Scott comes to know the real Shane and his sincere heart. So it’s painful to watch Ballard’s “hack job,” deceptively strung together using Scott’s raw footage.

One doesn’t have to be a Christian to empathize with the characters. The situations have moral complexity, provoking thought from both believers and unbelievers. Spoiler alert: the story ends happily for Christians as Scott eventually comes around to reclaim his faith in Jesus. That part is fairly predictable, but Small Group gets there with honesty and fairness. It’s definitely worth a watch.

4/5 stars


Small Group


DVD Details:

Home Video Distributor: Ocean Avenue Entertainment
Available on Blu-ray
- October 6, 2020
Screen Formats: 2.39:1
Media Format:
Anamorphic, NTSC, Surround Sound
Discs: DVD disc; single disc
Region Encoding: Locked to Region A



  • None

Special Features:

  • “Why We Made Small Group” - Director and cast member Matt Chastain explains his approach to making a faith-based movie that emphasizes messy realism and makes a “no cheese guarantee.”
  • “Shooting in Guatemala” - Here he talks about the real life Guatemalan mission group, Engadi Ministries, that provides part of the film’s inspiration.
  • “Movie References” - As a movie lover, Matt Chastain had fun including various film and television quotes in the dialogue. This featurette presents them in a list.
  • “Behind the Scenes” - This is a mostly lightweight look behind the scenes, full of cast and crew members teasing each other and joking about production.
  • “Trailer” - Self-explanatory movie trailer.


Movie Details:

Small Group

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic material including brief violence and drug references.
121 mins
: Matt Chastain
Matt Chastain
Sterling Hurst, Emily Dunlop, Matt Chastain, Nelson Bonilla
: Drama
Sometimes you have to go undercover to find the truth.
Memorable Movie Quote: "Good morning, open your bibles to John Chapter 13."
Theatrical Distributor:
Ocean Avenue Entertainment
Official Site:
Release Date:
October 18, 2018
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
August 20, 2019.

Documentary filmmaker R. Scott Cooper moves his family from Los Angeles to Athens, Georgia, after being hired to make a film about the dwindling influence of Christianity in America. Upon arrival, he learns that his producer, Ballard, intends to make a cheap hit-piece rather than an objective documentary. Scott turns the job down to protect his journalistic integrity, but financial difficulties force him to negotiate with Ballard who deceives Scott into believing that he will, in fact, tell an honest story.

In order to dive deeper than a public worship service will allow, Scott and his wife Mary join a small group at a local church, finding a group of imperfect people doing their best to live for Christ. As the Coopers relationship with their group grows, Ballard isn t pleased with the direction of the documentary and exposes their infiltration. Now we re left to see how the small group will react to such an intense betrayal.


Small Group