The Movie Waffler New Release Review - <i>Hide Your Smiling Faces</i> | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - Hide Your Smiling Faces

Two young brothers struggle in the aftermath of a local boy's death.

Directed by: Daniel Patrick Carbone
Starring: Ryan Jones, Nathan Varnson, Colm O'Leary, Christina Starbuck

Nine year old Tommy (Jones) and his 14 year old brother Eric (Varnson) are spending their summer in the manner common to most young men left to their own devices without the distraction of school: aimlessly wandering their neighbourhood. In this case, said locale is deep in rural New Jersey, a place that gives the impression of somewhere that once played an important role in America's development, but has long since fallen into disrepair.
An impressively structured bridge, now out of action and overgrown with weeds and coated in graffiti, looms over the area like a man-made Stonehenge, a structure whose purpose has drastically altered over time. While it appears to have initially been built as way through town, now it represents a way out, its elevation an ultimate solution to teen angst, the riverbank below a final resting place for the broken bodies of those no longer able to carry on. It's on this riverbank that Eric discovers the fresh corpse of Ian, a close friend of Tommy.
Both brothers react to the tragedy in different ways. Tommy is still at that age where he views the world with wonder, and though grief-stricken, he carries on as normal, fascinated by the insects that crawl on his body, and always looking to the skies, or at least the tree lined canopies of the area's back-roads. Eric, however, is at the age where we begin to forsake our sense of awe as we search for explanations, a time when doodles become diagrams; he becomes sullen, withdrawn and aggressive. Writer-director Daniel Patrick Carbone captures this contrast beautifully in a sequence where Eric gives his younger brother a ride on his bike. Travelling through byroads blanketed by nature's finery, Tommy gazes around him at the spectacle, nature's wonder echoed in his eyes, while Eric simply stares ahead, his face bereft of emotion.
In questioning man's relationship with his surroundings, Carbone's film recalls the great works of the Australian New Wave. The bridge seems to hold an almost mystical, yet threatening power, like the title locale of Peter Weir's Picnic at Hanging Rock. At an economical 81 minutes, Carbone makes every shot count, each cut snapping into place like an essential jigsaw puzzle piece. At a time when so many films favour bladder testing run times, Carbone reminds us that the secret of cinema lies in moments, not minutes.