After the body of one of their friends is found beneath a bridge, two adolescent brothers — Eric (Nathan Varnson) and Tommy (Ryan Jones) — confront changing relationships, the mystery of nature, and their own mortality. (logline)
It’s an impressive feat when a directorial debut is as striking as Daniel Patrick Carbone’s Hide Your Smiling Faces. Equally impressive is how a film so heavily recognized throughout the 2013 film circuit originally commenced as a Kickstarter project — and while the campaign may not have raised the amount of money hoped for, it did succeed in spreading the word about Carbone’s work.
Hide Your Smiling Faces never goes so far as to explain the lost friend’s demise. Whether he fell, jumped, or was thrown from the bridge is kept quiet; at the same time, it’s not of immense importance. This isn’t a detective story. This is about youth — kids being forced to cope with issues they shouldn’t have to deal with at such an early age.
At its most engrossing, the film presents the viewer with the reactions of each character and how they differ across age gaps. The boys start to have anxiety about death — something that has always been around them (An early scene features several boys playing with a dead bird), but they never had to dwell on the idea. Now they’re being forced to question their own mortality. Will I be missed when I’m gone? Will anyone even care? Faces deals with adult situations through the eyes of children and succeeds in being one of the strongest portrayals of adolescent loss and grief in recent years.
The score compliments the on-screen visuals in perfect fashion. A poetic opening scene, featuring the brothers playing in the rain as an ominous, dream-like musical score hangs overhead, brilliantly sets the mood for what’s to come. Equally successful are the long periods of silence (of which there are many), as the boys contemplate their thoughts and feelings on the events surrounding them.
It’s no small task to make young actors appear convincing, but that’s exactly what has been achieved here. The two leads feel like brothers. Carbone highlights this dynamic not only through natural, often improvised lines of dialogue, but in carefully crafted sequences — especially a fantastic “swimming lesson” scene. While the story is nonfiction, Carbone drew parallels to his own childhood memories, which brings a welcomed, natural feel to the relationship between boys and emotions.
Detachment between kids and parents is prominent, in addition to an “old town view” of life as a teenager. The group spends their time exploring the woods, country side, and abandoned houses rather than playing video games. There’s a specific lack of technology in general that helps showcase a sense of timelessness within the small town setting.
The film possesses a powerful sense of authenticity, and will force many viewers to recall their own childhood misadventures.
Hide Your Smiling Faces premiered at the 2013 International Film Festival in Berlin before going on become one of the most prominent finds of the Tribeca Film Festival.
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