There is a lot left unsaid in Norwegian filmmaker Anders Emblem’s elegant but ultimately dull A Human Position. At the heart of its story is a relationship and a trauma, both of which go largely undefined across its short but slow 80 minute runtime, leaving you less with questions you want answered and more just a forgettable sense of vague frustration, its struggle to hold your attention worsened by the online-only release it’s receiving in the UK.
In a move reminiscent of Jim Jarmusch’s equally placid but more intriguing Paterson, A Human Position takes us through multiple mostly event-free days in the life of local news journalist Asta (Amalie Ibsen Jensen), always starting each day with the same shot of Asta’s enviable apartment. Asta lives with her loving girlfriend Live (Maria Agwumaro) and their fantastically well-directed cat in the quaint coastal town of Alesund, a place that receives nearly endless daylight in the summer, but there’s a distance she seems to be keeping from not just the people around her, but herself.
Emblem does slowly unravel the reason for this, but it’s not often a primary concern of A Human Position, which is mostly interested in the quotidian moments that make up a slow, semi-employed summer. Very little actually *happens* here, and your patience with A Human Position will entirely depend on how quickly you sink into its world and gel with its rhythms. Despite some gorgeously composed shots, though, (if nothing else, this is a great gift for the Alesund tourism board, Emblem’s static camera really letting you absorb the town), I found myself struggling to connect with this overly gentle and often wordless story. Some of the writing and acting is enjoyably clever in its subtlety but, more often than not, it’s all just a bit boring.
The most recurring plot element is Asta’s committed but not very urgent investigation into the deportation of an asylum seeker who had worked locally in a fish factory, but this too is largely meaningless by the time the film is wrapping up, giving you very little to hold onto. At less than an hour and a half, you couldn’t really say that A Human Position has worn out its welcome by the end, it’s more a case of a film that never actually starts.