If you grew up reading a book such as The Diary of Anne Frank, then you may very well recognize the feelings you get while watching Cheryl Allison's directorial debut, the uncomfortably familiar yet necessary 15-minute short film Hiding in Daylight, a film that takes place years after a gay purge has seemingly eliminated the LGBT community either by physical force or by driving them into hiding places or secret lives.
This is the case for four longtime best friends - Val (Judy McLane, Broadway's Mamma Mia!), Scott (Jim Newman, Broadway's Hands on a Hard Body), Linda (Julee Cerda, Broadway revival of Children of a Lesser God), and Paul (Gary Hilborn, television's The Black List).
Forced to survive by living in fake marriages to each other, these four friends have gathered once a week for the past three years to see their real-life spouses and to play a "game" where they are allowed to reminisce about their formerly open gay lives.
However, the three years spent hiding their truths has started to wear on both their individual and collective psyches - the immense loneliness that comes from being apart from one's spouse met by the intense paranoia that has come with having to watch every place they go, everything they say, every action they make, and virtually every other aspect of their lives. After three years, the cracks are beginning to show and the suffocating denial in which they must live begins to bring to the surface the basic question of "Is this all really worth it?"
Hiding in Daylight is a beautifully realized film, an uncomfortable view for sure, and a film that captures both the internal and external stress that begins to wear on a human being when one is forced to live into a permanent state of denial. Cast incredibly well, Hiding in Daylight weaves together outstanding performances into an atmospheric fabric of underground paranoia that never stops feeling incredibly realistic.
Allison, who describes herself as an "out and proud lesbian," has noted that when the film was being made that homosexuality remained illegal in 71 countries and punishable by death in 8 of those countries. So, needless to say, Hiding in Daylight is a film that feels like it could have easily been borne out of real life circumstances.
Written by Gregory G. Allen, Hiding in Daylight uses its 15 minute running time well, perhaps feeling just a touch slight given the huge chasm of experience that occurs over those 15 minutes, and creates four characters whose lives feel very real and whom you care about from beginning to end.
Accompanied by a sharp, dramatic and resonant musical score, Hiding in Daylight opens almost playfully before slowing seguing into rawness, true grit, stunning transparency, and cavernous depths of emotion.
Jeff Turick's lensing is spot-on perfect, sublimely capturing both the intimacy of lives intertwined and a tech-fueled, voyeuristic world in which even the smallest of choices can transform one's life instantly.
In such a brief time, it's essential that Hiding in Daylight resonate less as lecture and more as story. Utilizing an ensemble cast with more stage than film experience works beautifully as they magnificently handle the film's emotional variations and highs without ever crossing that line into histrionics. Physically living into their characters quite convincingly, the entire ensemble melds together and sells this story remarkably effectively.
Set for its premiere at the Oxford Film Festival on February 9th, 2019, Hiding in Daylight looks to have a successful festival run and should have no difficulty finding a home on the indie and LGBT fest circuit whichever direction its team chooses to go. While I may have wished for a bit more time with these characters, the stark abruptness with which everything unfolds here magnifies the importance of the message and the intensity of the lives of these characters. This is a film you'll definitely want to catch if you get the opportunity.
For more information on Hiding in Daylight, visit the film's website linked to in the credits.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic