Every so often a filmmaker will come along that will change the game, Joanna Coates is one of these filmmakers. Her directorial debut, Hide and Seek has just been awarded The Michael Powell Award for Best British Feature Film at EIFF 2014 and rightly so, because Coates along with co-writer and star, Daniel Metz are new voices, who are doing something provocative, teasing and interesting. Hide and Seek breaks boundaries and asks the audience to question themselves in the most intimate of ways, ways that filmmakers are often worried about treading upon and yet Coates and Metz shine a spotlight on the audience throughout the film, which makes it all the more powerful.
The film follows a set of four bored young people from the city, who move into a house together in the middle of nowhere in the aim of creating their own personal utopia; away from the world and its issues but instead focusing in on themselves and those directly around them. Their belief, to really understand one another, is to partner swap where they can act out their most secret of fantasies without any judgement. The four young people are Max (Josh O’Connor), Charlotte (Hannah Arterton), Leah (Rea Mole) and Jack (Metz); the audience know very little about them and where they have come from but instead are asked to focus on the now.
Each of the group come for their own personal reasons and Hide and Seek doesn’t ask any of them to reveal their own issues, instead it carefully examines what it takes for you to find your inner self and be comfortable with your surroundings whilst figuring out yourself in relation to those around you. It questions sexuality in a simple and divisive way; it never puts a label on anything and instead the audience watch a variety of love scenes between different genders and the same genders, which force the audience to change their perceptions on love and sex. The games they play with each other allow them to be more intimate with one another and figure out their own base human instincts. By coming to a house in the middle of the countryside, they are allowing themselves to return to nature.
When another figure turns up, that is when emotions, relationships and decisions are brought into focus; just how well will they be able to integrate another person into their lives?
Coates’ filmmaking is beautiful, poetic and serene, allowing the audience to really explore the surroundings. One of her best skills is truly understanding how to get the actors to embody their emotions and how best to portray those on screen. Of course this also requires a lot from the actors themselves, each of whom are dazzling and bright in their own ways. In particularly, the performances from Arterton (Gemma’s sister) and O’Connor highlight them as talent to watch out for in the future and the chemistry between these two is sensual from the very start. Hide and Seek manages to be highly erotic whilst always embodying a sense of calm and contemplation.
A wonderful journey into the psyche of the characters and great to see a new representation of young people on screen that aren’t all just interested in drinking and drugs, Hide and Seek is one of the most bewitching and elegant British films of the last decade recalling a whole history of British film before it; from Ken Russell and David Lean to Tony Scott and Joe Wright.