Some years ago, a friend in the Carolinas lost his fiancée in a tragic accident. To cope with the loss he rented a cabin in the woods in another state and spent most of the winter hidden away by himself, far from the madding crowd. His only friend was a young teenage girl who worked in a local supplies store, plus from time to time he would talk to an old gentleman whose job it was to inspect the grounds. Once this friend emerged back into the real world and told me of his time in the cold cabin I told him that his story might make an interesting film. I’ll always remember his answer: “Not really. There’s no resolution.” He then added: “We just go on.”
It’s uncanny, but in the new, small independent film from director Chris Eyre (Smoke Signals) Hide Away, the central character, known only as the Young Mariner, (Josh Lucas) does exactly what my friend did; simply substitute the cabin with an old boat, the woods for a cove on Lake Michigan, the young teenage girl for a waitress in the nearby Boathouse Café, and the elderly woods inspector for a land-locked, crusty old man of the sea who now repairs sails and you have the same setup, including the unresolved stories, which, of course, is all a part of how life marches on.
In the intentionally vague opening scenes we know something has happened to the man’s family, but we don’t know what. We assume the worst, which is why the man appears to be hiding away. He buys an old wreck of a yacht that appears to be permanently moored. “Don’t forget,” the seller says. “As is.”
With no cell phone, the man spends the following winter slowly repairing the yacht, piece by piece; his only acquaintances are a young woman referred to as The Waitress (Ayelet Zurer) and the salty sea-dog known as The Ancient Mariner (James Cromwell.) “What are the two best days in a sailor’s life?” asks the young man. “The day he buys a boat,” the Ancient Mariner answers, “And the day he sells it.”
Hide Away doesn’t tell you a lot. Dialog is sparse and any relationships that the Young Mariner develops with the nearby residents appear to amount to little, yet there’s a strange fascination to be had watching Lucas as he passes his days, slowly coming out of his shell.
There’s a moment when we catch a glimpse of the past and the fate of his family and, to a degree, you begin to understand the emotional hell he is silently enduring while using the repair of his boat as a form of therapy. “Sometimes when you get to where you’re supposed to be,” the Ancient Mariner offers to the young man. “It’s too soon.”
Hide Away is far from being a film for mainstream audiences, and because of its story-telling content I’m not entirely sure it’s a satisfying one, but as my friend from the Carolinas remarked, “We just go on,” and that – true to our real lives – is exactly what the Young Mariner is going to do.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 Length: 83 minutes Overall Rating: 7 (out of 10)