Hide Your Smiling Faces still

The feature film debut of writer-director Daniel Patrick Carbone, Hide Your Smiling Faces received more praise and buzz after every screening. So I went to see it with high hopes, but found myself wondering as the credits rolled what my colleagues found so outstanding. Set in summertime in rural America, this drama focuses on two brothers, Tommy and Eric, as they struggle to comprehend mortality after one of their friends unexpectedly dies. A determined character-driven drama, its narrative is slow as it tracks the boys from pick-up wrestling matches to wanderings through the woods, depicting the pensiveness and occasional out lashing of violence that constitutes their churning grief, anger, and confusion over the death. Carbone puts much of the emotional weight of this story on his young leads' somber countenances. For me, this approach fell flat.

Carbone chooses a subdued tone and performance style, which suits the lazy summer days vibe his pacing suggests and the film's landscape-loving cinematography reveals. In theory, this tone would make the outbursts of violence all the more impactful. But for me, the film felt devoid of emotion, as so much of it depends on the connection to two boys whose expressions are often purposefully blank. Without an emotional tie to its heroes, this movie crawled along, offering little in the way of events, and more meandering and melancholy. It felt aimless and lifeless to me. In the end, I got what Carbone was going for with Hide Your Smiling Faces. I just didn't feel it.

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