Watching his new film Hideaway, it’s hard to believe that director François Ozon was once considered an enfant terrible, a prolific young purveyor of sexually charged thrillers and dramas like Sea The Sea, Criminal Lovers, and Water Drops On Burning Rocks, or garish experiments like Sitcom. Ozon’s insinuating 2000 character piece Under The Sand signaled a new maturity, affirmed by intelligent but forgettable films like 5 x 2 and Time To Leave, but who’s looking for an enfant terrible to mature? (It should be noted that 2007’s Angel, his inspired goof on David O. Selznick melodramas, was a brief return to rascally form.) Hideaway bottles up stormy feelings of grief, guilt, and desire so tightly that register only in a few sharp, impetuous bursts. The rest of the time, it’s dull and inscrutable—a film of almost vaporous subtlety.
The mystery woman at its center is Isabelle Carré, a heroin addict whose boyfriend dies in an overdose that barely spares her life. When she discovers she’s pregnant, the wealthy family of the deceased encourages her to have an abortion, because they don’t want to be reminded of their son’s death. Instead, Carré flees Paris for a house far away on the coast, where she can grieve and rehabilitate in solitude while exercising her choice to bring the baby to term. Several months later, her boyfriend’s gay brother, played by Louis-Ronan Choisy, comes to pay a long visit, but their relationship is troubled by the past and by an attraction that Carré cannot pursue for obvious reasons.
Ozon takes admirable risks with Carré’s character, who’s prickly and difficult by nature, and doesn’t suggest any great maternal instinct; she drinks and swigs methadone syrup throughout her pregnancy and seems ambivalent at best about what will come afterward. She wonders why the fates would take her boyfriend and leave her alive and pregnant, but never figures out how to process it. She’s a mysterious woman, but not a particularly compelling one. Her emotions are so sublimated that she becomes inaccessible and almost robotic. Ozon opens up the floodgates eventually, but by then, Hideaway has made it exceedingly difficult to care.