I like to think we can trust each other, me and you, so I must confess that I am considering lying to you right now. I want to tell you how much I loved watching Hide Your Smiling Faces. I feel as though loving the film is the right thing to do. I think that because it was made with heart and integrity I should have liked it more than I did. I couldn’t do that to you though. I need you to believe me when I say a film is worth seeing. I must confess; I did not like Hide Your Smiling Faces. I did not dislike it either but that road leads to mediocrity which is simply not good enough.
Enough about me, let’s talk about the film.
Daniel Patrick Carbone has made his writing and directing début with a low budget tale of a neighbourhood tragedy. One hot summer a young boy in a rural American community is found dead at the bottom of a bridge. This event may be insignificant on a global level but in the close-knit town small ripples are felt by everyone. The focus of the film is on two brothers, one of whom knew the dead boy well, as they come to terms with his death, try to fill the endless summer days, and indulge in more than a little navel gazing. Once the initial death is out of the way there is little to be found in terms of plot with the remaining events taking place inside character’s heads rather than out in the open.
There is plenty to admire about Hide Your Smiling Faces and from the glowing reviews included in its press notes it appears that other critics have not struggled so hard to love the film. The cinematography is gorgeous in that digital indie fashion we have come to know and love with gorgeous colours and a pleasantly narrow depth of field. The film is presented as if a distant memory with scenes drifting into one another and tight plotting nowhere to be found. The acting and dialogue are naturalistic to a fault and Carbone has clearly made a very personal film as authentically as he could.
Sadly as much as I might admire the craftsmanship and skill that has gone into making Hide Your Smiling Faces the film’s success relies on it making a personal connection with the viewer. The film spends so much time with just two characters who don’t always say what they truly feel that you need to relate to them in order to care about what they are doing or even understand what little is actually happening. Despite my, and the film’s, best efforts no bond could be forged between myself and what was being projected onscreen.
Ultimately Hide Your Smiling Faces was too low-key to register with me and I found myself a little restless and disconnected. There’s no telling whether this gentle narrative will win you over but I can’t honestly tell you that it succeeded with me.