Take a Drink: for boyish violence and mischievousness
Take a Drink: for cicadas
Take a Drink: for guns
Take a Drink: whenever Dad is harsh
Take a Drink: for the Pet Sematary
Do a Shot: whenever the kids fuck with dead things
By: Henry J. Fromage (Three Beers) –
One of the most popular Indie subjects/tropes is boyhood, and particularly the process of transitioning to manhood. Just the last couple of years, The Cold Lands, The Kings of Summer, The Selfish Giant, and, of course, Boyhood fit that bill, and that’s only the good ones. As for girls, well…
France has you covered, kinda
Hide Your Smiling Faces is very much in the same vein, as two brothers react to the death of a friend, confront mortality seriously for the first time, and grew up in the process.
This is director Daniel Patrick Carbone’s debut film, and what an assured debut it is. He takes his central premise- how early exposure to mortality affects a child’s development- and tackles it as realistically as possible. To a man, the performances are natural and feel authentic, but the heavy lifting is done by the brothers, Tommy (Ryan Jones) and Eric (Nathan Varnson). Carbone keeps both the camera and the psychological focus trained on these characters, to the point where the adults in their lives sound almost like Peanuts grown-ups.
Yeah, whatever you say, Dad.
Keeping this focus on the boys, while also maintaining an observer’s distance, draws you in while maintaining a sense of mystery, and as the movie goes along a sort of dream logic sets in, a gradual seeping of fantastic, evocative elements into the narrative that may or may not have actually occurred, but which reinforce the characters’ development and themes. Oh, and this is just a damn good-looking film, with picturesque framing and excellent cinematography from DP Nick Bentgen. There’s a nice mix of rural decay and late summer sumptuousness, brought even further to life with immersive sound design.
This film is largely plotless, and even with its short runtime sometimes feels like it’s padding things out a bit. I don’t know how many times the kids wrestle in a field, but it feels like at least two times too much, and there’s more half-decayed animal corpses in this movie than a Denny’s walk-in freezer.
And goddam they’re tasty.
This is probably because Carbone is wholly fixated on death and his young characters’ reaction to it, to the exclusion of anything else. There’s no mix of joy or humor in with the morbidity, to the point where you start to expect death around every corner in the film. It’s way more oppressive than any slasher flick, and you’re likely to sleep better after one of those.
Hide Your Smiling Faces is a beautifully shot, often insightful examination of youth coming to terms with the universal outcome.