By Don Simpson | June 21, 2014
Director: Joanna Coates
Writers: Joanna Coates, Daniel Metz
Starring: Hannah Arterton, Daniel Metz, Rea Mole, Josh O’Connor, Joe Banks
Charlotte (Hannah Arterton), Max (Josh O’Connor), Jack (Daniel Metz) and Leah (Rea Mole) have chosen to abandon the modern world of London in order to develop a utopian commune in the secluded English countryside. Sublimely uninterested in what is going on in the world around them, they foster a place in which imagination takes precedence over societal rules. As an expression of their newfound freedom, the foursome establishes a polyamorous lifestyle in an effort to breakdown interpersonal boundaries while also avoiding any romantic connections that might tear the commune apart.
As they hide from the world, the commune serves as an existential Petri dish for the characters to seek out their true selves and find happiness. Joanna Coates’ Hide and Seek tests the theory that societal norms serve as overbearing burdens for human beings; free of moral guidelines and everyday stress, people might just be able to enjoy life.
As history has taught us, most communes attempt to exist in the guise of utopia but fail because of egos and/or lack of direction. They either suffer from too much leadership, or not enough. In the case of Hide and Seek, the characters have learned to exist equally and cooperatively, thus relieving them of destructive egos and power dynamics. Coates skirts a discussion of the economic structure of this commune, leaving us to wonder how this foursome will survive in seclusion in the long run; but that is because Hide and Seek does not purport to be a microeconomic analysis of this world, instead it functions as a psychological study of natural human behavior.
Hide and Seek also proposes the philosophy of using avoidance and ignorance as a form of protest. For Charlotte, Max, Jack and Leah, the world outside their protective bubble is a hopeless place. Rather than trying to fix something that is too far gone, they have opted to start their own form of existence in the hope that the rest of the world will just leave them alone. Of course that is assuming that the evils of the world around them will not encroach upon their paradise.
A truly unique film, especially in its intoxicating presentation of sexuality and the human condition, Hide and Seek utilizes a formalist approach that channels the astute kino eye of auteurs such as François Truffaut and Eric Rohmer in a way that suggests cinematic maturity and profundity. Every shot and every action is meticulously crafted in such a way to give the audience a deeper glimpse into the psychology of the situation. Thankfully avoiding any form of exposition, Coates presents the audience with a scenario and allows them to come to their own judgments and conclusions. Whether or not this commune will last another week is not an issue, Coates’ film (just like its characters) exists solely in the now.