Based on the Tim Whitnall stage play The Sociable Plover, 2008's The Hide was brought to life by first time director Marek Losey. Staring Alex MacQueen and Phil Campbell, this UK production is set in one very small location and features only two characters, Roy (MacQueen) and Dave (Campbell), two people who, outside of these very specific circumstances, would never encounter one another in a million years.
When first introduced to Roy, he is presented as a straight laced, intelligent middle-aged man who loves nothing more than spending time in a secluded seaside shack (a "hide," if you will), watching and documenting the various species of birds he encounters. Roy's bird watching routine would seem to be precise and consistent, with the only excitement being the immense thrill he gets from spending time doing something he loves dearly. That is until the day a stranger named Dave shows up to take refuge from a vicious storm that has plagued the area. Unlike Roy, Dave is young and appears to be a lot more street savvy; in fact, he even comes off as potentially dangerous.
Despite their differing personalities, Roy and Dave find themselves getting along fairly well, sharing bits of personal information and beliefs that, at times, go far beyond the usual chitchat. Throughout their frequent and brilliantly written conversations, there is a line of cordiality that both men walk when conversing with one another. There are times where Roy and Dave's differing personalities are expressed in a more drastic fashion, causing the men to get a little agitated with one another. Nevertheless, the honesty creates a stronger bound, as well as being something that is quite satisfying to watch as a viewer.
The odd couple relationship forming between Roy and Dave stalls out when it's learned that the police are searching the area, looking for a dangerous white male wanted for murder. This revelation alarms Roy, setting about a slow falling domino effect of unease and tension that builds between the two characters up until the film's smart, but a little easy for me to spot, twist conclusion.
The Hide was lensed during the months of November and December on location on the Isle of Sheppey, and the result is a setting that exudes sweltering atmosphere in a deliciously gloomy way. Filled with overcasting rain clouds that shadow the scenery in dread, the location emits with the sounds of surrounding birds singing their own brand of ambience, making this a truly gorgeous setting for a film where scale takes a backseat to tone and detail.
It might be difficult for many to enjoy, or even want to watch, a film that takes place in one, very cramped, location that features no more than two characters who basically spend a majority of their time talking. It can be a lot to ask of an audience, but The Hide takes what is a stripped down story and fills it up with a great premise, interesting dialogue and a truly magnificent backdrop for the actors to give their fantastic performances in front of.
My only real issue with The Hide is the fact that I watched the film via a screener that looked like complete shit, something that is not at all the film's fault, naturally. Not only did my copy have some "property off…" bullshit polluting the screen for the entirety of the film (something I can deal with), the quality of the screener is grossly degrading to what was meticulously put on screen by director Marek Losey (something I find unacceptable). I would normally never make comment on such a secluded issue as a screener's quality, but it's as unfortunate as it is obnoxious seeing such a fine film in such a fashion. Regardless, this quip is a nonissue for anyone who would rent or buy The Hide, and knowing just how much better the film could look in a proper release, I would certainly love to take another plunge into this fantastically low-key, character driven thriller.