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Have any skeletons in your closet? For many people, the instinctive answer might be “no.” But a little more thought or honesty would likely reveal more than one skeleton of varying degrees of unsightly decay. Yes, even Christians have secrets, past or present, which they may not be eager to share. If people knew my secret, one may ask, would they still love me? Would they judge me? Hate me? Or forgive me?
Building on Pure Flix Entertainment’s reputation for high-quality Christian entertainment, Hidden Secrets is a film that deals with some of the ugliest of skeletons through a story that is painfully and sometimes hilariously true-to-life. Because of mature issues, the movie is best for teens and adults, but skilled acting, smooth production values, and a strongly redemptive story make for a film that will skirt past defenses and reach the hearts of viewers with the message of God’s saving love.
Can one life make a difference? When Chris Hayden dies suddenly, the answer becomes obvious as his old high school friends gather for the funeral. Chris stayed in touch with each of them through the years and became an anchor for their lives. Staying the weekend at the home of Chris’s sister, Sherry, this group of five friends start to reconnect, sometimes badly as their differences and beliefs lead to clashes.
Some of them are Christians, thanks to Chris’s witness, but even among those who claim to be Christians is Jeremy, a man who admits he hasn’t lived as a Christian should and has lost his way. His issues are compounded by a complicated relationship decision that becomes all the more difficult because of the situation surrounding the funeral. His long-term girlfriend expects a proposal, but Jeremy feels far from ready for that step when he’s battling reawakened feelings for Sherry, who happens to be his high school sweetheart.
For her own part, Sherry has to deal with her grief, facing her ex-boyfriend, and the guilt of a dark secret. Add the need to diffuse conflicts among her guests, and it’s enough stress to test anyone’s mettle. Such conflicts abound thanks to vocal anti-Christian sentiment from Gary, an agnostic, who constantly baits the holier-than-thou wife of another old friend. With Scripture getting shot back and forth in this battle for truth, happiness, and personal satisfaction, it may be that quiet demonstrations of redemptive love are what will open minds, mend hearts, and give this group of fallen people a taste of God’s glory.
Ensemble movies, featuring a group of characters who each have their own individual stories, can be great entertainment when they are done well, but, likely because they are so challenging to pull off, they more often seem to end up boring, confusing, or meaningless. Hidden Secrets is an exception to the norm with a screenplay that manages to find the key to unlock the magic of an ensemble story.
This key for Hidden Secrets is in picking two characters to focus on as the central story, and then connecting the other players’ tales like spokes on a wheel. At the center of this “wheel” is the relationship of Jeremy and Sherry, as they struggle with their demons, secrets, and emotions. This situation may appear to be a predictable romance on the surface, but this part of the story is where some of the film’s most challenging issues emerge. Through Jeremy and Sherry, viewers are given a powerful lesson in the realities of the Christian walk—the fiction of perfection versus the reality of sin and forgiveness.
This lesson is one that Rhonda, the aforementioned judgmental wife, has yet to learn. That’s a blessing for the audience of this film, however, since viewers then get a demonstration of hypocrisy in action. It would be easy to stereotype a character like Rhonda and render her funny, but unbelievable. Hidden Secrets instead strikes the perfect balance, using Rhonda for comic relief, but without ever compromising this often too realistic image of people we may know or may be ourselves.
Thanks to the successful handling of this story, the advantage of an ensemble cast is apparent, as so many characters mean that more viewers will find at least one person in the film to whom they can relate. For unbelievers, there’s Gary, the agnostic debater and Anthony, a college dropout who never sets foot in church. For Christians who don’t recall any times of stumbling, there’s Rhonda. Those in difficult marriages will relate to Rhonda’s husband, Harold. And for the large category of Christian viewers who struggle with sins past and present, as well as loss, doubt, despair, or depression, Jeremy, Sherry, and Michael (another of Chris’s friends) serve as relatable touchstones for the reality of such issues and how to deal with them.
Well-written as they are, these characters would not be nearly as accessible if it were not for the talented cast bringing them to life. David A.R. White, a familiar face to followers of Pure Flix movies, fills the role of Jeremy, showing dramatic chops that are underused in his other features, but here undergird Hidden Secrets with an emotional depth that allows this story to connect with viewers in unforeseen ways. White is paired well with the actress playing Sherry, Tracy Melchior, who also turns in a compelling performance.
Smart casting is at work with two of the more deceptively challenging characters, Gary and Michael. In the hand of an inexperienced actor, the role of Gary could easily turn into a caricature of the agnostic unbeliever. Tried and true John Schneider, however, embodies the character with so much authenticity that Gary instead becomes more real and relatable than several of the Christian characters. Corin Nemec, another veteran actor is placed in the small, but similarly complicated role of Michael, taking a subtle approach to the character that blossoms at the film’s close.
As with all of the Pure Flix films, the rest of the production values are equally high. While more of a drama than some of this company’s pictures, Hidden Secrets uses comedy as a balancing part of the story, fully intertwined into, and naturally stemming from, the action and characters in clever moments. One or two of the visual comedy moments do amount to putting a toe across the line into inappropriate humor, but the moments are brief and likely not bothersome to most viewers. The only other objectionable content is immodest dress, demonstrated in a low-cut dress and camisole, worn by two of the actresses.
Most importantly, there is nothing hidden about the Christian message in Hidden Secrets. Viewers who are concerned about some of the content elements they detect in earlier portions of the film need not fear—all will be made right in the end as Christ’s love, forgiveness, and salvation are powerfully demonstrated as the one answer to all questions, hope for all people, and reason for all life.
Once again keeping things pure and communicating the Gospel message through an entertaining story, Hidden Secrets is another Pure Flix film that, if Christians do their part, should not remain hidden or secret.