After Dr. David Callaway (Robert DeNiro) discovers his wife’s (Amy Irving) body in the bathtub, with her wrists slashed, he decides that he must move outside of New York for the sake of his daughter, Emily (Dakota Fanning). She has been in therapy for several weeks after her mother’s death, and her doctor, Katherine (Famke Jansenn) a former student of David’s, doesn’t think it’s a good thing to do. But they go anyway.
David and Emily move an hour north into a huge house on the lake. It is winter, and the surroundings are bare and cold and the realtor, sheriff and the neighbors seem strange. Emily seems to be in a trance, and she dumps her favorite doll in favor of playing games with a new fantasy friend, Charlie.
David doesn’t understand this and writes about it in his journal. He also has Emily write in a journal. David wants the best for his daughter so he asks a nanny Elizabeth (Elizabeth Shue) to bring her charge over for a play date. It does not end well.
I don’t think I can go on any more here without giving away too much. This is a sharply defined psychological drama with the usual thriller motifs and plot devices. It falls just short of horror – and a lot happens in the bathroom, where any person feels the most vulnerable.
When I saw What Lies Beneath, I scoffed because it was so obvious it had borrowed from every psycho-horror thriller than came before. Hide and Seek does use some of these, too. There are hints of Rear Window, a lot of Fatal Attraction and Psycho, a little from Don't Say a Word, and even a touch of Sleeping with the Enemy. And yes, you will guess who done it before the end – but the end is not the end and that’s all I will say on the matter.
Dakota Fanning is amazing. Her acting is consistent and frightening. Robert DeNiro seems to be playing against type here and we like him. But watch the relationship between the two carefully. It’s not as connected as it may seem,
Make no mistake, this is a gory, psychological thriller. Hide and Seek is definitely watch-able if this is your genre.
Not to put too serious a spin on an "entertainment", I often wonder what psychological dramas say about the human person. At times there is confusion between illness and evil doing - or the need to turn a person into evil incarnate. Perhaps, however, these kinds of films are more psychological for the audience than they are in themselves because they become a "space" where we work out not only psychological issues, but relationships, freedom, responsibility, morality and ethics - and who the "other" is in our lives. But most of all, these are films about fear.