Chris Eyre (shown at left), a name that should be familiar to movie-lovers but may not come immediately to mind because its owner has directed but a very few films over the past 14 years (he's worked more in TV). One of these films, however -- his first -- was the independent treasure, Smoke Signals. Hide Away, though very different, is just as good. Eyre combines the peaceful beauty of the coastline and water, the flora and fauna, the changing weather with a remarkable lack of dialog to achieve a kind of simplicity and elegance (the latter most definitely not of the chi-chi sort) that quietly but strongly forces us to respond to the Mariner and the other characters in their own time and at their own pace. This is something most movies would be very afraid to even try, let alone succeed at so remarkably well.
Peter Vanderwall (shown at right) who wrote the quite special screenplay, an interesting note about which appears at the end of this post. It was the screenplay, which was written nearly a decade ago, that first attracted Eyre, Lucas and producer Sally Jo Effenson to the project. To create a story of a man in recovery using so little dialog can not have been an easy task. To further add a group of subsidiary characters, all of whom have their own problems (and their own reasons for clamming up) seems to me to be really taking a chance -- which simply makes the work of Vanderwall, Eyre and their cast even more risky but finally all the more impressive.
Ayelet Zurer (above, in the background to Lucas' foreground), who registered so well in the recent Darling Companion, does exactly that here. Whatever movie she appears in, Ms Zurer offers it a strong presence, and this one is no exception.
James Cromwell, above, right. (Remember his farmer-of-few-words in Babe?). His stern, near-stony visage is used well here, and how he -- and the other maybe half-dozen character who interact with our Mariner -- connects to Lucas, slowly but keenly, is impressive. (Speaking of minimal dialog, however, I could have done without quite so much verbiage from Cromwell's character regarding his late wife. It was all there, already, in this fine actor's sense of solitude and loss, so we don't need this extra helping of words.)
Casey LaBow) whom he often sees working the cash register at his local market. This sudden, surprise meeting between them, using little dialog but remarkable feeling and tension, is filmed and acted beautifully, allowing viewers to fill in the blanks that unwanted exposition usually handles.
Jon Tenney (shown at right) as a marina neighbor of the Mariner who isn't quite the "boat man" he believes himself to be) and Taylor Nichols as Lucas' frustrated but-still-hanging-in-there boss.
Hide Away may leave you, as it did several of us at the end of the screening, in a quiet state of grace. It certainly isn't much like anything else that has opened theatrically of late. In terms of its reach and its grasp being very nearly at one with each other, I'd have to rate it among the very best of this year's movies so far. The film opens this Friday, June 1, in New York City at the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, in Los Angeles at the Laemmle Music Hall 3, in San Francisco at the SF Film Society Cinema, and in Salem, Oregon, at the Salem Cinema.
It will have other playdates around the country in the weeks to come. Click here and then click on SEE THE FILM, and then Theaters to see all the currently scheduled playdates.
iTunes and VOD. To learn where and how to get it in this fashion, click here, and then on SEE THE FILM and then click On Demand.
As the end credits rolled by at the close of Hide Away, my guest and I both noticed a mention/dedication of the film to a Vanderwall other than the screenwriter, along with a photograph, plus birth and death dates that seemed to indicate an awfully short life span. Credits roll too fast at times, and since we could not hit the "scroll back" button to read the information again, I asked the film's very helpful publicist, Nina Baron of PMK if she could find out more about this. Soon I received an email from the screenwriter, Peter Vanderwall, that filled us in on the whole story. Mr Vanderwall has very kindly assented to my using that email information below:
Ironically, I had written the screenplay for HIDE AWAY several years before Kenny's death. He was an avid movie buff and an astute critic of my scripts. He was very supportive of my writing this story about a man who deals with a family tragedy by rehabilitating a dilapidated sailboat in a remote marina. Kenny (who is shown in the 2007 photo, below, as a high school senior) was a big fan of SMOKE SIGNALS so when he learned that Chris Eyre would be speaking at a local university, he suggested I talk to Chris about the screen-play. This was in the fall of 2007. I followed Kenny's suggestion and approached Chris after the screening of EDGE OF AMERICA at Willamette University. Chris said he would like to read the script. A month later, he called me and said, "I want to make this movie."
The act of writing a fictional narrative about a man losing his child does not prepare one for actually living it. But seeing this truly independent film get made and then watching it affect audiences has been a healing process for me. Like all of the cast and crew, I am very proud of this movie. I think Kenny would be, too.