CAPSULE: During a long, slow, summer three boys drift around nature. They talk; they ride bicycles; they wrestle. One of the boys is found dead from a fall from a bridge. Is it an accident or was it intended? We may not even find out. The viewer should not look for this film to move like a film with plot. It is more dreamlike in its approach. Writer, director, and editor Daniel Patrick Carbone eases us through this re-creation of the summers of his youth. Rating: high +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10
This is a story of long summer days and boys, brothers, growing up. The boys are Eric (Nathan Varnson), age 14 and Tommy (Ryan Jones), age 9. It is set in some recent past when the boys have no electronics more sophisticated than a CD player. The background the viewer hears is not the humming of computers but the buzzing of locusts. The slow pace of the movie follows the slow pace of young teen boys talking and smelling the air.
The setting is a rural part of New Jersey. The boys pass the time wrestling with each other or examining an abandoned house or talking thoughtfully about what they think death is like. There are Tommy and Eric and Ian. We find out Tommy and Eric are brothers and Ian just a friend. Ian brings the gun to show his friends. They examine the gun with a real sense of awe. Ian's father catches them and takes the gun back. But the gun does not stay put away for long. Later Ian is found dead. Had he jumped from a bridge? Did someone push him? Did he just fall? Was it an accident or was it intentional?
There is not a whole lot of plot to HIDE YOUR SMILING FACES. There could be, but that is not the point of the film. This is not a film of action and plot but one of languorous texture. The background is always more important than the foreground. Do not expect all questions to be answered. Telling the plot of the boy killed is not really much of a priority for the director. It is just about the two boys, the summer, and the little moments in life as they bit by bit cross over to manhood. Seen through the brothers' eyes this is a world of boys. Tommy and Eric's mother is the only female in the film and she is not there for long.
Carbone just recreates the moments that the boys will remember in the years to come. In one sequence Eric wants Tommy to learn to swim. He picks up Tommy, drops him in a shallow part of the nearby pond. He knows his brother will figure out quickly enough how to swim if he has to.
Daniel Patrick Carbone puts in so much of his resource into the texture and background of his setting that he neglects the plot. He out-Malicks Terrence Malick in creating the background noise. The viewer will have no idea where the film is going but will have a real feel for where he has been.
Keeping dialog and even plot at the barest minimum Carbone is asking us to be young boys in New Jersey and to just see what it is like. The viewer is caught up in the atmosphere or finds his patience tested. I rate HIDE YOUR SMILING FACES a high +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 6/10. In late March it had a limited release and became available on VOD and iTunes.
Film Credits: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1964773/combined
What others are saying: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/hide_your_smiling_faces_2013/
Mark R. Leeper Copyright 2014 Mark R. Leeper