Anders Emblem’s Hurry Slowly follows Fiona (Amalie Ibsen Jensen) and Tom (David Jakobsen), two young adult siblings who live on an island off the coast of Norway. The younger of the two, Tom suffers from a form of autism that leaves him unable to take care of himself. Since their parents and grandparents are all dead – for reasons that are hinted at but never fully explained – Fiona has been Tom’s legal guardian for several years.
Plotwise, Hurry Slowly is the textbook definition of a slice-of-life film. In it, the only thing that really “happens” is that Tom turns 18, which means that Fiona will be able to send him to a care home and live on her own. Otherwise, the film simply depicts Fiona and Tom as they go about their daily routines. Among other things, we see that Fiona works on a ferry, that she bikes a very long distance in order to get to work, and that she enjoys playing the guitar in her free time.
“…Tom suffers from a form of autism…Fiona has been Tom’s legal guardian for several years.”
In keeping with the narrative’s bare-bones nature, moreover, the formal elements of Hurry Slowly evoke a feeling of directionlessness. Generally immobile, the camera frequently relies on long takes and long shots conveying both a sense of desolation and the slowness of time. Additionally, to accentuate the story’s slice-of-life feel, the film does not contain any kind of background score, and the script has next to no dialogue.
What’s ultimately frustrating about Hurry Slowly, however, is that it’s hard to figure out what Emblem is getting at with this depiction of directionlessness. What exactly is he trying to capture? The emotional effects of Fiona’s transition from caretaker to independent adult? A kind of overarching ennui? The languor that inevitably comes with summer? The loneliness of a life spent in physical and emotional isolation? For the most part, it simply isn’t clear what we’re supposed to get from this portrayal of Fiona and Tom.
“Hurry Slowly won’t leave you awestruck, but its best parts ensure that you won’t be totally disappointed.”
Meanwhile, the other issue with Hurry Slowly concerns its attitude towards Tom. Generally speaking, the film is more interested in depicting Fiona’s worldview than Tom’s: in other words, you could say that Fiona is the protagonist, while Tom plays a merely supporting role. Partially as a result of this, Tom becomes a two-dimensional character. Instead of treating him as a complex individual with a unique and meaningful perspective on the world, the film depicts him as a “poor boy” who merits our pity, an approach that feels a tad condescending.
All that said, however, I’d still say that Hurry Slowly is worth a watch. For one, its portrayal of Fiona and Tom’s daily life proves oddly, unexpectedly mesmerizing: as opaque as it often is, it’s still an effective and very well-made contribution to the slice of life genre. And if nothing else, Jensen gives a good performance, one that avoids emoting in favor of careful understatement. Hurry Slowly won’t leave you awestruck, but its best parts ensure that you won’t be totally disappointed.
Hurry Slowly (2018) Directed by Anders Emblem. Written by Anders Emblem. Starring Amalie Ibsen Jensen and David Jakobsen.
6 out of 10