One aspect of Su Friedrich’s black-and-white Hide and Seek consists of documentary remarks by women about their childhood discovery of their lesbianism. These reminiscences are interwoven into a fictional tale of one girl’s parallel self-discovery in the mid-1960s. This aspect was co-written by Friedrich and her partner, Cathy Nan Quinlan. When I say “interwoven” I mean “interwoven”: sometimes a bit of personal history from one of the interviewees becomes the springboard for a passage in 12-year-old Lou’s coming-of-age story. For instance, one interviewee mentions that her childhood adventures found her tomboying with two male cousins, and there we see Lou (Chelsea Holland, perfect) competing with two boy companions to knock out the window of an abandoned place with rocks. Lou wins.
Tomboys are still girls, however, and Lou, instead of savoring her triumph, must make a testy, anxious exit upon her first menstrual period. At home, her big sister calms Lou’s embarrassment and nerves. It is a deeply affecting moment of sibling solidarity.
Adolescent lesbians have everything to worry about, then, that other girls must worry about—and one thing more, especially since their lesbianism doesn’t necessarily reveal itself clearly and tidily. What is going on? While other pupils make jokes at the expense of a teacher whose partner is another gal, Lou is moved to defend her, becoming herself as a result the butt of jokes. A film shown in class refers to the “transitional stage” when girls are closer to other girls than to boys; how on earth is one to gauge whether one is experiencing a transitional stage? By its exclusion of an alternative possibility, the school film implies either that lesbianism doesn’t exist or that there is something wrong with it.
This is a wonderful movie, lovely, warm, gracious, humane.
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