Hide and Seek

I wasn’t sure how to begin a review of Hide and Seek, so I’m taking a kind of simple approach by explaining to you that I didn’t know how to start it. The film is weird, and won’t likely reach cinemas near you. It’ll be a VOD product, one that you’ll watch late at night and then regret seeing. Not because it’s too risqué — maybe the opposite, though — but because despite what its title suggests, there’s no exploration whatsoever.

Here’s the juicy premise: four people, Max (Josh O’Connor), Leah (Rea Mole), Jack (Daniel Metz), and Charlotte (Hannah Arterton) decide to pack up their things and move into a cottage in the middle of nowhere. They won’t have access to technology or news of the outside world. They’ll be free and unburdened by everything that previously held them down. They’re creating a utopia. They’ll even have a rotating schedule of who sleeps with whom — anything goes. During the day, they’ll play games and perform skits. It’ll be fun.

That’s a pretty solid idea for a movie, actually. I mean, that provides ample opportunity to explore what it is to be human, how relationships work, and how this “freedom” actually affects people. I mean, how many can say they’d try something like this? How many have? Probably not many. So, it provides the filmmakers the opportunity to say something unique, thanks to the situation. Or, at the very least, overwhelm the audience with sex. It could have gone either way, or both ways. But Hide and Seek doesn’t really do either of those.

There’s essentially no exploration of what this type of living situation does or says about people. Giving the benefit of the doubt, perhaps that’s the point. Maybe it doesn’t change anything. But even that could have come across more clearly. Basically, we watch these adults fool around during the day with their clothes on, and then fool around at night with them off — except we don’t see whole lot of the fooling around, because it’s all shot discretely. Yes, there’s a good bit of nudity, but it’s mostly tasteful.

And that would be fine, but the entire premise is ripe for being more of an exploitation film, especially if the filmmakers don’t want to say anything important with it. At least give the audience something, right? But, no, Hide and Seek basically just lets us watch these people do this dance for 80 minutes before mercifully letting the end credits roll. There’s just so little to it all that I was hoping there would be some reason to recommend it. But, beyond the actors and how pretty is all looks, there isn’t.

Let’s at least mention those, though, before we close. Hide and Seek is a pretty film. It’s an artsy film, after all, so it kind of has to look good. A lot of natural lighting is used, the cinematography is good, there’s strong use of bright colors — particularly red — and it all looks good. Looks, however, can only get you so far.

Thankfully, the actors are up to the task, even if they’re playing characters that are completely shallow and have very little personality. I had to remember them based on appearance, not on names or character traits. They’re basically all the same — kind of lost in the world, but not really. I suppose they all deserve props for being in this movie, which must have been kind of scary and risky. None of them seemed nervous, though. There isn’t any good dramatic acting — the screenplay doesn’t allow for there to be any genuine drama — but just showing up and doing some of the things that they are put through in the film is more than enough.

Hide and Seek is a film that should have been more than it is. It has a very intriguing premise, one from which many things could have been learned. But the film squanders that potential and essentially gives us 80 minutes of adults fooling around, doing nothing of consequence, and telling the audience exactly zero about people. It doesn’t even work as an exploitation project. It is shot well and often looks very pretty — and tasteful — and the actors deserve kudos for, well, doing what they do, but Hide and Seek is ultimately not worth your time to watch.

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