February 25, 2019  (Web Review)

Hobbyhorse Revolution

(2017) 89 min. In Finnish w/English subtitles. DVD: $19.95, Blu-ray: $24.95. FilmRise (avail. from most distributors).

Reviewer rating: 2.5/4

Some documentaries look like comedy con jobs or mockumentaries due to the seemingly absurd subject matter. Consider this Finnish production, which centers on a trend in Finland among teenage girls to “ride” hobbyhorses (a child’s toy with a plush horse-head attached to a stick), and compete in championship contests. Tracking the lives of three hobbyhorse enthusiasts—Aisku, Elsa, Alisa—over a period of a year or so, Oscar-nominated filmmaker Selma Vilhunen captures strange images of high school kids running in circles with hobbyhorses firmly squeezed between their thigh muscles. Even more amazing are the mid-to-large competitions in which scores of girls take technique and artistry as seriously as Olympics skaters. The spotlighted trio here have some turmoil in their lives, strongly suggesting that hobbyhorses are safe extensions of their battered and sometimes bullied egos. But that’s not enough to make complete sense of the hobbyhorse phenomenon, and the documentary would have benefited from hearing more girls talk about their fixation with this activity. An offbeat film, this is a strong optional purchase. Aud: C, P. (T. Keogh)