Lolita Davidovich stars as Chicago-based FBI agent Sally Russell, assigned to investigate a spate of barn-burnings — hate crimes, perhaps — in rural Iowa. Reclusive Amish aren’t anxious to help, feeling that, in effect, God will take care of crime while they tend to their crops. Local Sheriff Paul Garrison (J.A. Preston) helps acclimateRussell to things Amish and then virtually disappears, letting her do all the investigating.
Most sympathetic to Russell among the Amish is Annie (Patty Duke), who’s curious about the life of an outsider, though still suspicious. In the meantime, Sally soaks up a bit of Amish philosophy, which somehow brings her closer to her boyfriend of six years, Scot (James Read), a building contractor who — at first resentful that she’s on the job, rather than on vacation with him — arrives in Iowa just in time to participate in a barn-raising. If family values-loving Amish have any negative reaction to Sally and Scot’s relationship, they keep it to themselves.
Mystery itself (remember the mystery?) abounds with false trails and red herrings. Among the more obvious suspects are a couple of young local “English” (i.e., non-Amish) troublemakers (Justin Chambers, Jeff Kizer), and a real estate agent (Craig Wasson) who offers to buy land from the barn-burnings’ victims.
Script by Richard Alfieri and Susan Nanus is told in broad strokes — Sally is very ignorant as a newcomer, suggesting at one point that Annie telephone the sheriff if any further information develops. No-nonsense FBI agent tries hard to adapt, changing her big-city power suit to a modest earth-tone outfit and shawl she happened to have brought along. Amish in Iowa seem to spend most of their time harvesting corn, baking pies, quilting and raising barns, all while wearing a fair amount of makeup and paying close attention to their coiffures; maybe they’re Reform Amish.
Scenery, filmed around Iowa City, is lovely and well-used, and performances are solid, if not spectacular. Amish, of course, are supposed to be restrained.