Don’t be fooled into thinking that Hidden Away is just another boy meets boy love story with a less than great cover photo of its two male leads. It’s a very well told and acted Spanish teenage gay love story that’s very heartwarming and enduring as well. ★★★★
Hidden Away is not told as a simple coming of age story, and it’s not told in chronological order, which makes understanding and piecing the film together a bit confusing. Director Mikel Rueda has decided to tell the story in a way in which is supposedly meant for the viewer to put themselves into the characters shoes. So it opens with Ibrahim, a 14-year-old young man, walking along the road hitchhiking, escaping from something which we won’t know until the very end. He’s from Morocco, but had gone to Spain a few years back looking for a better future. He’s been living in shelters, hoping to get his official papers so that he can stay in Spain. He lives in Bilbao, fully settled, attending school and living in a shelter for boys just like him. Then there is Rafa, also 14, Spanish, living with his parents. Rafa hangs out with boys just like himself, yet there’s one thing different about Rafa. He doesn’t like girls. There is one girl in particular who practically throws herself at him, but he just doesn’t reciprocate, much to the horror of his friends. Even though Ibrahim and Rafa’s paths initially cross (at one point in a club urinal), they don’t meet until a bit later in the film. And there’s a spark. A spark that at first betells an evolving and very close friendship between the young men, but then evolves into more than that. While there is no actual sex scenes in this film, Rafa and Ibrahim’s bond appears to be more than just physical, it’s emotional as well.
Ibrahim gets mixed up with a local gang that gets him to sell drugs, while Rafa whiles away the time looking for any reason to be with him. They initially bond over a cigarette, but their friendship, and romance, blossoms after they spend a day together hanging out and going bowling. It’s a relationship that we know is too good to be true. And when Ibrahim receives a letter from the government wanting to extradite him back to Morocco, he sees no other way but to run away, with Rafa by his side.
It’s the performances that make this film fantastic. German Alcaruz as Rafa brings an innocence to his part, a young man who knows what he wants and doesn’t care what his friends think. His facial expressions will melt your heart – Alcarazu gives a believable and touching performance. Adil Koukouh is also very good as Ibrahim. He’s bigger and more mature looking than Rafa, but he also has a special something that makes Rafa’s attraction to him seem very credible. Also very very good is Joseba Ugalde as Rafa’s best friend Guille. He knows he’s losing Rafa to Ibrahim and he’s OK with it, even when Rafa and Ibrahim have to go on the run, there’s a very touching scene when Rafa and Guille say goodbye to each and Guille tells Rafa that’s he doesn’t quite understand what is going on.
Hidden Away is a bit difficult to comprehend in the beginning as the scenes do jump around, and the subtitles on this film are quite small and at times hard to read, but stick with it till the very end and you will be rewarded with a love story that’s unique in it’s telling and at it’s very core is a film that tells the story of young love, young love that we’ve all experienced.