Laura, a German refugee, begins classes at Prince Albert School for Girls in rural England during World War II. Her experiences and knowledge of several languages make this newcomer seem exotic, mysterious and worldly — qualities the other students do not possess.

Laura has been forced to grow up very quickly. When her brother joined the Gestapo, he caused a crisis in the family: the emotional breakdown of his mother and estrangement from his father. Laura's responsibilities increase when her father is incarcerated by the English, and she is left to take care of her morphine-addicted mother.

The girls' burdens and isolation are eased when she is befriended by Patience, a somewhat na├»ve but serious classmate who introduces her to her circle of acquaintances. They all meet in the school's "secret places" — a garden and boiler room. But the newly established bond between Laura and Patience is broken when the outsider steals the other's boyfriend. Later, Laura is ostracized by her classmates as the war casualties increase.

Secret Places, written and directed by Zelda Barron, is an engaging study of adolescent friendship tested by sexual rivalry, ethnic prejudice, and scholastic competition. Marie-Theres Relin, daughter of Maria Schell and niece of Maximilian Schell, gives a moving performance as Laura. Tara MacGowran, daughter of the late Jack MacGowran, is excellent as Patience, a girl who must follow the dictates of her heart rather than give in to social pressures. Everything about Secret Places exudes the kind of care and concern which makes intimate dramas so emotionally compelling.