The death of the young boys shocks the community, but the effect that it has on brothers Tommy and Eric is by far the most apparent. Far from just the understandable acting out, it has a profound effect on their perception of death. All of a sudden, death is so easy, it’s no longer abstract. The boys enjoy teasing death, taking risks and being aggressive. The father of the boy who has died is undesirable to say the least, but the interaction that the brothers have with him is fascinating to watch. A grown man, with maturity and knowledge, swamped in unfathomable guilt and grief, is no more or less adept at coping with his feelings than they are.
A solid debut from director Daniel Patrick Carbone, Hide Your Smiling Faces is a film where mortality itself is the central character. It seeps through in to casual conversation between the young boys, the immaturity of youth merely pondering something they can’t quite understand, but then how can it make sense when death occurs in someone so young? The smatterings of vast, rich landscapes often drenched in rain that puncture the piece, serve as a striking reminder to the insignificance of humans. A cinematographer as well as director, Carbone’s love of spectacular imagery is apparent. Grains of dirt, creatures, the sky, it’s as much a part of the film as the actors, he’s filming life in every sense.
The film can drag at times, not through any lack of directorial ability, but because Carbone chooses to draw out scenes to include banal, every day images; a sink in a bathroom or a person choosing their groceries; these banal things, after all, are what make up part of the fabric of our everyday existence. This doesn’t always play out correctly, and there is sometimes an air of pretension to some of the scenes. It’s also slow to start, but once the film begins to pull away from the familiar clichés of the genre, it’s a delight to watch.
Hide Your Smiling Faces attempts, and for the majority of the time, succeeds in to reaching in to the darker side of the coming of age structure and try something new. A brilliant effort.