House of Hummingbird: The Poetic Slow Cinema of Teenage Ennui

I just know that when bad things happen, good things happen, too. And that we always meet someone and share something with them. The world is fascinating and beautiful.

With reserved grace, Bora Kim deftly weaves a slice of life story that moves glacially, at life’s pace. It is not so much imitation as it is lived-in experience. The director’s confidence inspires our own. Every word and action carries the weight of biography — for everyone who has been a teen, its primary notes are understood. It frees itself of any coming-of-age cliche and creates its own tone piece. It is poetic, rhythmic, and forcibly gliding along at a pace of its own creation. It shows the author in control of their story, pathing its narrative at their own leisure, making us wait with the characters because it is valuable to do so. To slow down and live inside those young adult moments that feel much larger than life.

House of Hummingbird. Dir. Bora Kim.

House of Hummingbird buzzes with haunting authenticity. Bora Kim deploys a talented young actress in Park Ji-Hu. She is an actress that holds so much weariness for the world in her youth. An old soul that acts with the earned confidence of self belief instilled in her by the director. As the story is chiefly introspective, it relies on her utmost ability, and she holds the weight of the film very well.

It’s a slow burn — at 135 minutes — and we feel every bit of its length. It’s also a film you carry with you afterward. That begs for your reflection, transporting the audience through the lens of a youthful perspective. With well-considered cinematography, the shots carry weighty depths, hinged onto the focal point of its main character. It always looks right and of its time and place. The luxury of having the time to tell a precise story, the way it needs to be told, is the key, but also a detriment. The film is likely too slow for many audiences, steeped in melodrama and the ennui of lost summers. Sedate and with no hurry to entertain, it requires just the right audience, likely to find it through their own discovery.

House of Hummingbird. Dir. Bora Kim.

The general apathy of it all is both its greatest virtue and downfall. There are many moments that could be sharpened, but not without losing the feeling of it being a determined tone piece. Bora proves an undeniably gifted filmmaker, with a clear compass for telling deeply humanistic stories. This film enters such a hurried phase of young adult cinema and takes bigger risks, simply by slowing it down and showing us life on life’s terms. This is both what makes it special and how it may evade popularity for an audience. The audience that does find this humming poem of teenage angst and self exploration, will be duly rewarded.


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