On paper, Hideaway might read like a Lifetime Channel programmer aimed at long-celibate divorcees. The film follows Mousse (Isabelle Carré), a heroin addict who awakens in a hospital to two immediately life-transforming discoveries: Her boyfriend Louis (Melvil Poupaud) has died from a drug overdose and she’s pregnant with his child. Louis’s wealthy mother pressures Mousse to abort, while his dreamy gay brother indiscreetly shoots her sympathetic glances from across his family estate’s huge, impersonal chambers. Understandably rattled, Mousse seeks refuge at an old flame’s abandoned vacation home in an effort to collect herself as she prepares to have the child anyway—out of roughly equal parts curiosity and spite. Said dreamy brother, whose name we learn is Paul (French pop-star Louis-Ronan Choisy), soon finds himself drawn to Mousse over what we initially assume is concern over his destined-to-be-disowned niece or nephew, but things, naturally, aren’t quite that simple.
Writer-director François Ozon frequently opens his films with stock melodramatic scenarios only to gradually shed them for an episodic, freer form that’s often ineffably poignant and erotic. Hideaway, one of Ozon’s best films to date, is composed of a number of quietly beautiful moments that gradually reveal a complete portrait of an everyday life in turmoil. The heroin overdose that kills Louis isn’t staged in the typically sensationalistic (and judgmental) fashion of most drug movies, but as a desperate attempt at communion between two lovers who are perhaps hopelessly adrift. Ozon has the empathy to stage their drug use as they want to see it, as a ritual that’s initially intoxicating but insidious. A number of other moments and images have a similarly surprising power: Mousse in a brilliantly soapy bath, her big belly cresting the water; a failed one-night stand that turns into something weirder and more discomforting in intimacy, which is to say a moment of calm between two obviously damaged people; and, particularly, Mousse and Paul’s own inevitable tryst, an encounter mostly obscured in darkness that allows us to savor the pleasured breathing of two people in the right place at the right time.
Yet the picture isn’t the gushy celebration of babymaking that many films featuring pregnant women usually are, and that’s primarily due to Isabelle Carré’s fine, ambiguous performance. Actually pregnant while filming, Carré doesn’t over-explain or sentimentalize Mousse, who clearly partially resents her child-to-be and its sudden hold over her identity. Mousse is a distinct creation, a gorgeous, prickly, aloof misfit who embodies the film’s fascination with creation as something more complicated than the usual ode to the female body. There’s an element to childbirth that’s queasy and uncomfortable (especially for the woman, one gathers) and that, of course, contributes to the otherworldly pull that a very pregnant woman can seem to have, not just over men, but over other women and children as well. Men are drawn to Mousse, but aren’t entirely sure what to make of her, just as she isn’t entirely sure what to make of herself. Films like Hideaway reaffirm how much most movies withhold from us; namely, the riches inherent in even the most casual experiences that testify to the mysterious privilege that many people share of simply being alive.
The image is fine, but not as pristine as the film deserves, as the clarity and contrast could be sharper, particularly in a number of scenes set by the beach. (One senses that Hideaway was better represented visually in the theater.) The sound, however, is detailed and well-balanced between the diegetic and non-diegetic, thus honoring the filmmaker’s concern with minute details such as the sound of someone’s feet treading on sand, or the ominous bubbling of heroin cooking in a spoon.
Barebones: an original music video by star Louis-Ronan Choisy and the obligatory trailer.
Films like Hideaway reaffirm how much most movies withhold from us—namely, the riches inherent in even the most casual experiences that testify to the mysterious privilege of being alive.