Hide and Seek
British drama exploring sexual behaviour is more akin to an art installation than a narrative film
Hide and Seek is a curiously misleading title for this single-location British drama. It implies investigation, and suggests a hunt for answers; a desire to get beneath the surface of things. But while the film’s simple and intriguing premise is ripe for that kind of approach, the filmmakers fail to get their teeth into any of it. There’s a great deal of showing – the naked bodies of the four main cast members are regularly on display, often entwined with one another – but precious little enquiry, and even less insight.
The film is set in a beautiful converted farmhouse in an unspecified English country idyll, where four previously unconnected twentysomethings have come together to attempt an alternative way of living. No motivations are spelled out, but what is clear is that Leah (Rea Mole), Charlotte (Hannah Arterton), Jack (Daniel Metz) and Max (Josh O’Connor) are all keen to move away from normal society and normal rules, particularly regarding sex. They have a nightly rota of varying couplings amongst the four of them, with the rule being that during the night, anything goes.
Director Joanna Coates, working with co-writer and cast member Metz, has worked hard to make this a film about the present moment. Shorn of context, low on dialogue, and comprised mainly of fixed shots, Hide and Seek often feels more like an art installation than a narrative film. But whatever the desired effect, the film is a failure as a piece of storytelling, with characters so flimsy as to be impossible to feel anything for, and a weightless quality to what little drama unfolds. Coates only seems interested in seeing what sex looks like, and apart from one inconsequential sequence when a fifth character turns up, the film offers no reflection on how this sexual behaviour relates to and impacts the characters lives in the daylight.
Visually, the film is quite lovely, with a great use of natural light and a simple, crisp digital aesthetic. Beneath the surface though, it’s an empty experience.