Hide and Seek

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Sunday March 29, 2015

When a group of young people (two men, two women; three Brits, one American) decide to set themselves up in a remote house as a little unit -- a commune? A four-way marriage? Something without a label? -- the usual questions start up in the viewer's mind. How is this all going to work? Won't they need jobs? What if they get bored out there in the sticks? Is jealously going to break them up? What about hostile outsiders intruding on their little paradise?

All of those questions arise in the course of the Joanna Coates-directed film "Hide and Seek," and all of them seem to resolve naturally and organically... not with answers, necessarily, but with a certain sort of innocence and optimism that makes you hopeful for their prospects.

The house belongs to Leah (Rea Mole), a dark-haired young woman who must have some financial means to maintain not just the property, but also its inhabitants. We don't know just what those means might be, and we're not sure how it is that she and Max (Josh O'Connor) have come to hatch this idea, or why they want to share their lives so closely with two others whom they don't even know.

These others are an American fellow named Jack (Daniel Metz, who also produces and who came up with the story together with Coates) and a blond young woman named Charlotte (Hannah Arterton). True to form, we aren't told how Jack and Charlotte have fallen in with this scheme; they don't seem like hippies, or even much like the sort who would shop in organic food stores. If anything, they all seem a little uncertain about life -- its responsibilities and hubbub, its uncertainties.

In many ways, they seem like they are still children. Their amusements are childish enough; they dress up, chase each other around, and stage a fake talk show in which they are the only guests. Their common life is, in a sense, a pretense; but then again, to what extent is anyone else's life also pretense, though of a different, often rougher, sort?

And their distractions are not always childish. There's a fair amount of sex going on, engineered along with everything else to be democratic and free of constraints and expectations, other than the imposition of a schedule that determines who will sleep with whom. The boys pair off with each other, and so do the girls, in the course of their round-robin mating rituals.

All of this is something of a shock to Charlotte's ex, Simon (Joe Banks), who shows up midway through the movie to see if he can't sweet talk Charlotte back. For a while there's a few things that might turn ugly; will Simon go cave-man on the guys in order to reclaim his woman? That's when these Nature's Children show themselves made of sterner stuff: They come up with a plan to drive the outsider back to the outside.

But internal tensions are sure to roil, and how will the foursome contend with the inevitable problems of jealousy, insecurity, and fear of abandonment? That, more than anything else, keeps the movie on track, and it's a much needed tension. There's something somber and even melancholy about this film -- a strange mood for a flick that's essentially about young swingers -- and it's underscored by dirge like music. There are many moments of sweetness, along with fleeting erotic scenes, that lift the edges of the veil and suggest intense, daring emotions circulating among the little group. A frisson of that intensity tickles the viewer, too, from time to time, but never enough; that might be the movie's best trick of all, in fact. It keeps us wanting more.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.