Plot: Autumn (Cindy Busby) loves the ranch she calls home, a property she and her husband purchased and planned to spend the rest of their lives on. But after his death, she has struggled to move on and while she tries to keep up the ranch, she is just unable to manage all of the tasks. The financial situation is bleak as well, as the money has run out and sooner or later, she will likely have to sell the property. As much as she hates to let it go, she finds a prospective buyer in Jake (Kevin McGarry), a wealthy developer known for flipping properties. He assures her this project is different, which is crucial, since she is pained by the idea of changes made to the ranch. As the two walk through the business deal, a spark of personal interest begins to burn, but will Autumn’s grip on the past hold back her future?

Entertainment Value: This one sticks to the well worn, made for television light romance formula, but Autumn Stables is able to rise above most of its peers, thanks in large part to a terrific lead. The narrative hits the usual beats for this kind of movie, touching on past relationships, moving on, and coping with change, so don’t expect many surprises in terms of plot here. But while the story is predictable, the movie is quite a fun ride and to be fair, the fan base for this genre often looks for comfort, rather than fresh, bold approaches. And while the formula is evident, Autumn Stables leans on overall polish and a capable lead to elevate the material. The production values are rock solid, with the ranch as an effective location and the various outdoors elements giving the film a more unique atmosphere. But to me, it is the presence of Cindy Busby in the lead that helps this one stand out, but more on that soon. The tone here is light, but skews more toward drama than comedy in most scenes, while the pace is good and the movie is rarely slow at all. I think fans of these made for television romances will find a lot to like here, but Autumn Stables has more to offer than most of its peers, so even outside that audience, there might be interest.

Although most of this movie follows the expected path, the variations that are present make all the difference in the world. The main reason Autumn Stables works so well is Cindy Busby, who has the lead role here and gives us a character that is not the usual, sugar sweet Hallmark good girl. Her take on Autumn is likable and all, but she has an attitude that makes her stand out from the pack. The nature of the narrative requires some moments that break that attitude of course, but it was nice to see a spirited lead character, rather than a love-drunk optimist. Busby is great in roles where she can get some edge into her characters, even if done in small doses, as seen here. I think she shines in the role and even if you’re not usually into these light romances, her effort alone might win you over in this case. The rest of the performances are fine, but none really rise above that basic level. The cast also includes Jeanette Roxborough, Alys Crocker, and Kevin McGarry.

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