Rafa is a teenage boy on the verge of becoming a man, who’s starting to realise that maybe his friends are jerks (and racists), something that becomes especially acute when they begin to pressure him to get with girls, which he isn’t interested in.
Then he meets Ibra, a young Moroccan immigrant, who he knows his friends wouldn’t approve of but who he feels drawn to. They spark up a friendship which may be leading to something more. However Ibra’s precarious situation begins to take precedence when it becomes clear the Spanish authorities want to deport him, despite the fact he’s underage and has nobody to go back to.
Hidden Away is a sweet story of first love given extra power by dealing with issues of immigration and race, but done through the eyes of youth. Rafa doesn’t really care about the politics but finds himself trapped between love, basic humanity and an indoctrination of societal attitudes, in this case that ‘Arabs’ are wastrel, criminal scum.
To be honest though, it doesn’t feel like it’s going too far into this, beyond saying these issues exist and that Rafa and Ibra must find their way through them, if they can, whilst also suggesting that there are forces out there that don’t really care about love and may wish to rip them apart just as the two teens are coming together. It does deal with the issues it raises, but in a relatively subtle way and always through the eyes of the characters.
Both German Alcarazu and Ramón Agirre as Rafa and Ibra put in extremely good performances, which is key to ensuring Hidden Away works, as it is so based around their characters’ experiences, especially Rafa, who is in virtually every scene. They pull you in and by the end their romance becomes extremely affecting, partly because it’s so innocent and partly because it’s under threat of being ripped apart so cruelly. It may be nothing new (indeed except for Ibra being a Moroccan immigrant the story has been told many times) but it is sweet, sometimes moving and it works.
Indeed the most effective aspect of the movie is taking what is a relatively simple story, but moving us through Rafa’s journey, so that initially he thinks that the biggest problem with befriending Ibra will be the disapproval of his friends (especially if they realise his intentions aren’t purely platonic), but is then thrust into a situation where the stakes are far greater than he realised.
There is one potentially major problem though, and that’s with the disc itself. The subtitles are burnt into the picture and they’re very small, so if you’re sitting a fair distance from the screen or have eyesight issues, it will be very difficult to read them.
Overall Verdict: A deceptively simple film that is heartfelt, sweet and by the end manages to be pretty moving. It may not totally get to the heart of some of the issues it raises, but it does a very good job of taking you into a world where what should be simple first love is threatened by a host of issues outside the lovers’ control.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac