Plot Summary: Dancer Elena and sign language interpreter Dovydas meet and form a beautiful bond. As they dive into a new relationship, they must navigate how to build their own kind of intimacy.
In terms of the spectrum of human sexuality, it is difficult to think of a group with as few pieces of media representation than those who identify as asexual. This is what makes the new Sundance drama Slow from writer/director Marija Kavtaradze such an interesting film. With a mixture of sorrow and bursts of lovely life and all shades in between, Kavtaradze paints a picture that is compelling and honest.
In lesser hands, the idea of tackling a love affair between a woman and an asexual man could be cringeworthy at best, or problematic at worst. Yet, there is a sensitivity that Kavtaradze brings to this project that never feels clumsy. There is an open dialogue about what it means to be asexual, especially between partners, and it is examined in a way that feels earnest and not like cheap exploitation. The asexual man, Dovydas, isn’t treated like a sideshow attraction, which allows you to be compelled by him without any nasty aftertaste.
Kavtaradze also employs an extreme documentary-like style which captures a collection of small but beautiful moments, strung together in a story of two people needing and wanting to be loved and understood. Highlighting this is the camerawork by Laurynas Bareisa which has a wonderful fluidness that harkens back to the cinema vérité movement that came out of ‘60s French cinema with shades of neo-realism, which heavily focused on regular people going through struggles.
Lead actress Greta Grinevičiūtė delivers a really thoughtful performance as Elena that overflows with longing and heart. With her face beaming with equal parts sadness and hopefulness, she is channeling the mythic Swedish icon Liv Ullmann. Much like the aesthetic of the film, she brings a naturalist turn that is joyful, haunting, and captivating. All of this is impressive, and well worth praise. Yet, she also brings the art of dance into the picture, adding another layer of depth and expression to her character. Kęstutis Cicėnas is equally impressive as Dovydas, and like Grinevičiūtė, he digs deep to find the raw material to covey a complex man who must navigate a world that doesn’t understand how he relates to love and sex.
Each have their own moments to shine, but together they have undeniable chemistry. Their scenes together really ring true and run the gamut from playful, sweet to throbbingly painful. Had the chemistry between these performers not been believable, the entire movie would have fallen apart. However, they not only sell you as a couple, but you firmly want things to work out between the two. The film does leave you wanting a bit more in-depth exploration of both of these characters. While both leads are by no means shallow, they could have fleshed out their inner lives for something even more emotionally resonant. The story leaves you wanting more, acting as the rare case in which a longer runtime could have been beneficial.
Audiences looking for a clean cut and tidy romance film, the kind with a narrative wrapped neatly in a bow, will most likely feel alienated by Slow. Much like real life, things don’t always have a nice and uncomplicated resolution. Outside of the great direction, acting and visual simplicity, one of the film’s greatest strengths is that it never gives you all the answers. In fact, it makes you sit with some uncomfortable truths by the finale.
Slow isn’t going to be the big splashy film grabbing all the headlines at this year’s Sundance. However, if you want a microcosm of a relationship that sways from sweet to tragic and all the brilliant whispers and heartbeats in between, this movie will certainly be for you.
Slow is that rare film that is quiet in its understated presentation, yet it still manages to scream loudly in its themes of human sexuality, yearning and the vast spectrum of love. This might not be on everyone’s radar, but those who take time to see it will be very impressed by what it has to say and how it is conveyed with tact and style.
Slow had its World Premiere in the World Cinema Dramatic Competition section of Sundance Film Festival 2023.
Director: Marija Kavtaradze
Writer: Marija Kavtaradze
A Compelling And Honest Microcosm Of An Atypical Relationship
Big film nerd and TCM Obsessed. Author of The Ultimate Guide to Strange Cinema from Schiffer Publishing. Resume includes: AMC’s The Bite, Scream Magazine etc. Love all kinds of movies and television and have interviewed a wide range of actors, writers, producers and directors. I currently am a regular co-host on the podcast The Humanoids from the Deep Dive and have a second book in the works from Bear Manor.