Joanna Coates attempts to explore the concept of living in a utopia in the modern age in her feature film Hide and Seek.
Two girls (Hannah Arterton and Rea Mole) and two boys (Josh O’Connor and Daniel Metz) from London move to an isolated country house in an attempt to free themselves of the traditional social conventions of relationships and life. There they challenge their own convictions and try to embrace living in a near utopian environment.
Alongside cinematographer Ben Hecking, Coates shoots Hide and Seek with a light, dreamlike whimsy capturing the intimate visual delicacy that living in such an environment might have. A focus on skin and the couples simply enjoying the company of each-other hits home that this is a film about touch, fulfilment and living a life in a free and open environment without the interferences of conventional life. However, this premise never digs beneath a superficial level and it proves a struggle to immerse oneself in Coates’ modern utopia.
We never truly get the sense that these characters are particularly committed to the ideal, nor do we ever delve into the psychology behind their motivations. Perhaps this is what Coates wants, to forget about the analytical reasoning behind the fact that they are there and simply embrace the fact that they are. Nonetheless, without this development or context there is a real failure to connect with these characters – and we simply feel like curious onlookers.
Since the characters have little to do but play games or hook-up in the house, there is not a huge amount of dramatic tension here until the arrival of Charlotte’s former boyfriend Simon – a man who threatens the utopian harmony of the house. He is someone who fails to get in sync with the ideals of the couples – mistaking them for some form of cult. This leaves little to focus on other than the film’s transgressive sexuality which does make a somewhat interesting subject matter. The group create a rota with a different pair each night taking the master bedroom. A concept that may sound fair, but ultimately leads to favourites developing and hints of jealousy between the group.
The performances ensure things remain relatively engaging, most notably watching the various interactions between members of the group.
Hide and Seek boasts an interesting concept, but lacks the depth and conviction to truly immerse viewers. An impressively delicate visual style and some likeable performances ensure that Coates film is always a semi-entertaining watch.