Dir: Joanna Coates. UK. 2014. 80mins
There are some interesting ideas in Joanna Coates debut film Hide And Seek, which tracks a quartet of young folk who decide to head off to the remote countryside and design a new concept for their lives, involving shared sexual encounters and plenty of play, but in the end it flatters to deceive and never really delivers in terms of drama or radical thinking.
The film opens in provocative style as four young people gather around a burning coffin-shaped object in the fields at night, giving the hint that the film may even take a pagan or dark turn.
The film, which had its world premiere at the Edinburgh Film Festival, is intriguing and engaging in moments, but the script by Daniel Metz (also one of the stars) and Coates is too mannered at times and the performances – apart form Hannah Arterton’s free-spirited turn – never overly convincing. It is a bold low-budget drama to be sure, but there a niggling sense of rather smug middle-class angst driving the film (placing it in sub Joanna Hogg territory) that leaves it intriguing rather than entertaining.
The film opens in provocative style as four young people gather around a burning coffin-shaped object in the fields at night, giving the hint that the film may even take a pagan or dark turn (sadly it doesn’t!) before switching to a series of conversations amongst then four sometime early as they prepare to head off into the wilds. These chats never really explain their disenfranchisement or reasoning for wanting to try a new way of living but at least acts as a nice scene-setter.
The lovely remote cottage they head to is owned by Leah (Rea Mole), and she is joined by Max (Josh O’Connor), Charlotte (Arterton) and Jack (Metz), all seeking some kind of new direction in life. Their fragile characters gradually develop (some more than others) as they tentatively embrace the notion of a rota for sharing (aka sexual encounters) the main bedroom and engaging in a little game-playing (playful parlour games really) in the evening as a way of showing off their characters and embracing intimacy.
There is the hint of real drama when Charlotte’s ex-boyfriend Simon (Joe Banks) makes an unexpected appearance, with the dynamic of the group changing and a distinct tension in the air, but it all goes nowhere, and soon we are back to frolicking in the idyllic countryside (there is no sense of bad weather or money issues here) and playing around with the notion of relationships, love and friendship.
Production company/contact: Show Business Film Ltd., +1 781 864 3560
Producer: Daniel Metz
Executive producers: Matt Holt, David Grant
Screenplay: Daniel Metz, Joanna Coates
Cinematography: Ben Hecking
Editor: Maya Maffioli
Music: Paul Wallfisch
Main cast: Josh O’Connor, Hannah Arterton, Rea Mole, Daniel Metz, Joe Banks