Hide Away is the simple story of a man who buys an old ship and fixes it. Even the main characters are simply named the Young Mariner (Josh Lucas), The Ancient Mariner (James Cromwell), and The Waitress (Ayelet Zuerer). The movie is not so much concerned with complicated plot lines as it is with the straightforward metaphor of man as a broken down vessel. The film relies on performance and mood to bring the myth to life, which unfortunately is not altogether successful. The actors give their all in an attempt to salvage the shipwreck and Director of Photography, Elliot Davis, is able to find sadness in nature throughout all four seasons of the year, but none of it is enough to compensate for the bare-bones script. Dialogue is replaced with silence, which would be fine if the rare conversations that did take place weren’t so wooden. The actor who sells the boat to the Young Mariner could’ve been easily substituted with a robot. The film also dwells too long in the territory of the vague. The audience’s patience wears thin as we await any hint of the Young Mariner’s back-story. When finally revealed it then turns out that the secrets should have stayed hidden as the scene is melodramatic and underwhelming. Major turning points in the plot also feel overly convenient and unearned.
Despite its shortcomings, actor Josh Lucas remains a reason to watch. The rest of the cast turn in solid performances: Ayelet Zurer as the Waitress harnesses calm and patience instead of simply relying on her attractiveness to console the souls of the sea-bound and James Cromwell as the Ancient Mariner turns in a great performance no matter what movie, TV show or play he’s in. But it really is Josh Lucas’s performance that anchors the entire movie. An underrated actor that can be seen in everything from A Beautiful Mind to Sweet Home Alabama, he really gives his all to his role as the Young Mariner. What the script lacks in convincing pathos, Josh makes up for as sadness and tragedy is imprinted onto our souls every frame he’s onscreen. There are also small moments of comedy as he struggles to repair the ship or the water in his shower goes out, but it really is his journey through the stages of grief that makes the performance great. Watching him drink himself to one sleepless night after the other, plod through the snow in the winter, and contemplate the end alongside the sea is heartbreaking enough for even the most hardened of sailors.
Winner of the Grand Jury Prize for Cinematography at last year’s SXSW Film Festival, Director of Photography, Elliot Davis, also deserves acknowledgement for keeping Hide Away afloat. Davis turns Traverse City, Michigan into an almost mystical land where lost souls go to escape. Everything from the stillness of the water, to families of birds, to sunrise and sunset contribute to the film’s underlying sadness. It’s no easy feat to turn light into art, but thanks to his mastered craftsmanship, Davis gives the audience a beautiful glimpse into nature’s own personal mythology.
Yet still, even with superb acting and cinematography, Director Chris Eyre’s Hide Away still lacks the support to keep the boat from sinking. Eyre has stated he wanted the film to feel atmospheric, “…real, spirited and weatherly.” He didn’t want the film “to feel staged or over-rehearsed. The approach was to let the film speak.” It’s a bold artistic decision that to some degree did in fact work. The mood and the world of the Traverse City, Michigan boating community has been somewhat captured successfully. The problem though, in letting the film reveal its self naturally, is there’s not enough to reveal. Noble intentions are lost as the characters remain ghostly outlines rather than fully fleshed human beings audiences can bring themselves to care about. Major redeeming turning points such as the decision to keep on living feel contrived rather than organic. And when the only thing that feels staged and over-rehearsed is the movie’s one major reveal, disappointment is inevitable. Hide Away desires to be a piece of simple poetry, but the end result is a sinking ship in dire need of a stronger script.