Hidden Blessings is a remarkable movie in several ways. It features solid acting by four of the leads: James Arnold Taylor as the reclusive painter, Gregory Davidson, Kylie Renwick as documentarian Lydia Drake, and Davidson’s two sons, Drew H. Wells as Matthew Davidson, and Mason Mecartea as Samuel Davidson. And Matthew Budds as Adam Doyle, Gregory Davidson’s friend and attorney, is also good.
The movie features some surprising twists in the story, and mystery, as well as humor, which is comically played by Taylor as Davidson. And there is a wonderful transformation by Lydia Drake, who goes from thinking poorly of Christians and that God is uncaring, to becoming convinced that God and Jesus are, indeed, involved in the lives of men and women.
The premise of the movie is that Gregory Davidson is a brilliant painter but, for some unknown reason, he is a recluse. It’s known that his wife, Grace, died years before but was this the cause of his departure from the public? Filmmaker Lydia Drake owns a painting by Davidson, called “Hidden Blessings,” but what is the message behind the painting? Her mother owned the painting and Lydia doesn’t know how or why she had the painting in her possession. Lydia is hired to make a documentary about Davidson, who has finally agreed to a public interview.
As Lydia enters his home and begins to interview Davidson, she learns he is a man with a great sense of humor and he’s also a mimic, doing wonderful impersonations of Alec Guiness as Obi-Wan Kenobi from Star Wars, Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd from Back to the Future, and the actor with a distinctive voice, Christopher Walken. Lydia also learns that Davidson is a dedicated Christian, often quoting scriptures and stating how God is always with him.
Davidson’s sons, Matt and Sam, are very different from one another. Matt is the caretaker of his father’s painting empire, overseeing investments and his business interests. Davidson made a bit of a fortune in his heyday when everyone wanted an original Gregory Davidson painting. He was known as a visionary. His son, Sam, on the other hand, is a free spirit and takes no interest in painting affairs. He is simply trying to figure out which path in life he wants to take.
An early hint of the mysterious Davidson is that he stopped being in the public eye to concentrate on his family, and to seek God in prayer. But how did Grace die? And although he is no longer in the public eye, Lydia learns that Davidson never really stopped painting, and one character offers the belief that his wife Grace was his “muse.”
It’s been rumored that Davidson has “hidden” objects behind the face of his paintings. One person considers x-raying a painting to see if this is true. But the machine didn’t work. But is Davidson really so mysterious? One thing he makes clear to Lydia is that he believes his gift to paint came from God. Lydia interviews Davidson over a period of two years. She also holds onto a note from her mother, who wrote (concerning the Davidson painting, “Hidden Blessings”) “Lydia, I hope this brings you closer to your truth, Mom.” But where did her deceased mother find this painting? Lydia shares that her mom got pregnant in college, and that she never knew her dad. “But here I am,” she says. Interestingly, someone who is a key character in the story turns out to be her father.
As Davidson paints one painting, he tells Lydia, “You’ve got to make sure your foundation is right,” which has more than one meaning. He means for the paintings but also in life that one needs to have a good foundation, anchored in the Lord. Davidson has a Bible verse on one of his walls along with the phrase, “I’m a Christian. I just try to connect with God.”
As the story moves from scene to scene, we see that Davidson is a loving father, a committed Christian, and very patient with people. When his son, Sam, demands his share of the family business in order to leave home, Davidson is very patient with him, gives him the money, and tells him he loves him. It is not entirely apparent in the beginning, but the audience soon learns that the story will, in some ways, become the story of the prodigal son, with son Matt staying with his dad while Sam buys a nightclub and begins to sink into a life of partying.
Davidson continues to show that he’s self-deprecating with a sense of humor always on the surface. When filmmaker Lydia tells him not to look into the light of the camera, he says, “Don’t look at the light, don’t look at the light, it’s the opposite of what I do!” In another scene, when the slate is struck in front of his face, just before filming a scene for the documentary, he grabs his nose like the slate got him! Laughter ensues from the two filmmakers, Trinity the camera lady, and from Lydia.
The film answers all the important questions which the early scenes set up: Why did Davidson leave the public eye and how did his wife Grace die, and how did it affect him and his two sons? What happens to his son Sam? Does he return home? And Lydia, dealing with what appears to be a tragedy, becomes upset with God. Does she ever soften up? And who was her father? How did her mother wind up with Davidson’s painting?
Things to think about: Although Lydia spouts off about Christians, she undergoes a change in the film, and she comes to see God in a different light. And the importance of forgiveness is emphasized. The film does a good job in revealing that God can bring good things from the bad things in our lives. Working out differences is another good discussion point in the movie. As Matt says later about his father: he was the epitome of parental guidance and love, which is also the point the film makes regarding Christ and God. Also, the point is made that the love of money alone does not satisfy.
The film is a wonderful mixture of drama, comedy, mystery, surprising twists, and features excellent acting and compelling music, with a great song during the credits, about giving all earthly glory to God, and refers to eternity, and fellowship with Jesus. The film does include a few drinking scenes, a character who negatively comments about Christians and God, but who changes her outlook. It also contains one use of language. Conversely, it shows the power of God to heal after people undergo difficult or even tragic events, His never-ending love, and the transformation God can make in people’s lives. It has earned our Dove seal for ages 12+ and is faith friendly.
THE DOVE TAKE: This witty film shows that God is always with us, during the good times and the bad, and audiences 12+ will enjoy its remarkable story and funny dialogue.