Hidden Secrets
by Phil Boatwright

John Schneider, Tracy Melchior, David A.R. White, Staci Keannan, and Christian recording artist Rachel Lampa. Pure Flix. Written by Shawn Paul Murphy, Timothy Ratajczak. Directed by Carey Scott.

Joining a group of former classmates for the funeral of his best friend, Jeremy finds himself caught between his new fiancé and the girl he left behind. Hidden Secrets, an ensemble play-like drama similar in theme to The Big Chill, addresses the need for forgiveness, as well as controversial issues such as abortion, homosexuality, pre-marital sex, and the true meaning of faith.

There are some who don’t want me to badmouth a film containing gospel themes, despite my misgivings. But when you make your living examining the artistic skills of moviemakers, it’s not honest or fair to critique Christian artists on a different scale than their secular counterparts. That said, I’d hate for someone to miss a message that may further his spiritual walk because I had problems with the film’s low-budgeted merits. Having made a few, shall we say, “artistically challenged” church films in my youth, I am aware that even they were used by the Holy Spirit to bring some unbelievers to a spiritual awareness. Therefore, I will tread these waters as carefully as possible.

I remember thinking when The Big Chill was released, how interesting it would be if there was a Christian version about old friends reunited and coming to grips with life’s challenges. Evidently writers Shawn Paul Murphy and Timothy Ratajczak thought so, too. You won’t find the great soundtrack or bawdy performances that made The Big Chill a hit. You will, however, get some interesting examinations of Christians dealing with complex life issues. There’s also a poignant depiction of a Christian who forces biblical laws upon others, while ignoring the whole “love one another” thing.

This film does contain lessons concerning guilt and forgiveness, and a reminder to not browbeat the still unconverted. What’s more, it contains several good lines and heart-felt performances. There. That’s to alleviate the guilt I will feel concerning the following disappointments.

I won’t linger on the rip-off scenario or the pretentiousness of some dialogue. I will examine the score. The background music of The Big Chill became a main character in that film; each ‘60s and ‘70s tune incorporated furthered that story. Here the ever-present sugary background musical riffs unsuccessfully highlight the countless speeches that are delivered like skit-reinforced Sunday sermons.

But here is my real objection. Hidden Secrets is overrun with montages. I counted five. There may have been more. A montage (a sequence of images or quick scenes blended together to compress action) is used to further a story or show the development of a character. They should be utilized sparingly as the gimmick can become redundant and reflect a lack of writing skill.

There were other filmmaking misdemeanors that caused this critic to squirm, but I hung in there for the messages. Alas, a good sermon could address the same issues in a lot less time. “But this is a movie,” you say. “There should be no sermons in a movie.” Exactly.