Josh Lucas usually plays the charming sidekick or caddish ex-boyfriend, and more recently starred as the hunted-down lawyer in the predictable, quickly-cancelled television version of The Firm. He gets a better chance and gives a powerfully touching performance in Chris Eyre’s eloquent, beautifully-made little indie Hide Away.
You’ve heard the story before. Lucas plays a man escaping a recent tragedy, who buys a broken-down boat and lives on it in somewhere in The Great Lakes. But the story isn’t the point in a film that follows the unnamed hero through a year as he hides from his past, gets fallling down drunk, develops a crush on the local grocery cashier, repairs his boat, meets some locals. Eyre presents all this with poetic eloquence, which Lucas matches with a transparent performance that lets us see his character’s progess and backsliding, even while he coyly says very little to the few people around him.
The screenplay itself, by Peter Vanderwall, is at times unecessarily coy. The few people who become important in the hero’s new, temporary life aren’t given names either, including James Cromwell as an older, helpful boatman and Ayelet Zurer as the mysteriously quiet owner of the local cafe. And when we learn about the tragedy that sets off his year in hiding, it isn’t much of surprise.
But those shortcomings are minor in this rich, rewarding film. Eyre (Smoke Signals) and the cinematographer, Elliot Davis (he shot the first of the Twilight saga movies), create gorgeous images that carry the film along, including a procession of local boats decorated for Christmas, sweeping through the night as the hero watches, alone. Best of all, the often underused Lusas give us a stirring, fresh take on a familiar story.
Hide Away (which had the less generic title A Year in Mooring when it played at SXSW) is on VOD now and opens in NY, LA and other cities on Friday, June 1st..