Eliza Wyatt, a young frontier widow, is still trying to pick up the pieces after her husband died and left her and her two children with an apple farm to run. She has no one to turn to except her wise friend Aunt Batty, that is, until a mysterious hobo named Gabe Harper suddenly appears on her land. Thanks to Aunt Batty, Gabe begins working on the tree farm despite Eliza’s suspicions of him. But little by little, she begins to open up her heart to both Gabe and God as time starts to run out for her farm.
Production Quality (2.5 points)
Hallmark has rarely shirked their responsibility to craft quality productions, but Hidden Places is a step above the norm for them. Video quality and camera work are flawless. Audio quality is great, although the soundtrack is stock. Most importantly, outdoor scenes are filmed well in authentically historical sets and locations. Props are also authentic. Really the only complaint to raise here pertains to editing, as there are too many useless scenes while some seems are cut too short. Otherwise, this is a respectable production that should be the norm in Christian film.
Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)
Lynn Austin is clearly one of the best Christian authors in the field, yet Hidden Places is not her best book. While this film correctly captures her undeniable character development and great dialogue it’s still a stereotypical save-the-farm plot combined with a frontier romance story involving a young widow. However, the viewer can appreciate the struggles of the characters and their deep back stories, as well as this film’s strong Christian message. Yet the plot is still based on too many coincidences. There is some missing off-screen content as the story rushes through some parts while lagging at others. Finally, the end is too predictable and simplistic compared to the rest of the plot. In short, while this is a mostly enjoyable movie, it seems like it could have been more.
Acting Quality (2 points)
This is a professional cast compared to other Hallmark frontier casts, mostly because costuming is kept realistic and low-key. Emotions are believable and line delivery is on point. The child actors and actresses are better than usual. However, this cast is held back from being all that it could be by too much mediocrity. In the end, it is a great effort, but once again, it seems like there could have been more.
Cramming the depth of Lynn Austin characters and storylines into ninety minutes for the sake of a TV movie simply does not work. Though she is clearly a talented writer, she needs to be unleashed from the confines of Hallmark and her plots need to be allowed to unfold progressively rather than forcefully to stay within the allotted runtime. However, there’s no denying that Hidden Places is an enjoyable film and many will find it so. But next time, please please please choose a different Lynn Austin novel (see our Box Office Wish List column 😉 to bring to the big screen and let it be all that it’s meant to be without confining it.
Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points