Nature Boys

Final_PosterHide Your Smiling Faces”, the stunning debut feature by Daniel Patrick Carbone, is about two boys spending the summer with their parents in the mountainous area of Sussex County, New Jersey in a time period that seems like the late 1990s (note use of portable CD player). The time and location could almost be any wooded area in the past couple of decades. The film is largely nonverbal, bereft of topical or cultural references, which is refreshing. Parents today often complain that teenagers spend too much time looking at screens but there are no televisions or Gameboys to be seen here. The two boys, 14-year-old Eric (Nathan Varnson) and his 9-year-old brother Tommy (Ryan Jones), rather, spend their days exploring nature, riding bikes, wrestling with other boys —there are no girls in the film— and talking about death. The landscapes they inhabit are half idyllic and half foreboding. They were shot gorgeously by Nick Bentgen, who also shot sequences for the recent documentary, “Teenage”.

Eric is quiet and about to explode with prepubescent energy. “I hate it here,” he complains to his parents over dinner one evening. Their parents are just as ineffectual as the ones whose words are distorted in those old Charlie Brown TV shows. Notice the t-shirts the brothers wear. Tommy’s are all from zoos and nature camps (including one in Croatia). Eric prefers MTV Headbangerz Ball. Eric bullies his brother a bit literally forcing him one point to sink or swim, a technique Tommy repeats later with his dog Daisy. But Eric loves Tommy too and isn’t afraid to show it. One night at the dinner table after a petulant Eric stalks off, their father tells Tommy, “You are not him.” A perfect summary of parental fears of bad sibling influence and their inability to control it! Read more