'Slow' Review: Exploring Bodies & Unconventional Yet Intimate Relationships | HIFF 2023
Yes, you're 100% right: contemporary dance is one of the biggest crimes humanity has ever had the nerve to commit. Sometimes, however, a story can be worth enduring some of it, such is the case with Slow (Tu man nieko neprimeni in Lithuanian), writer-director Marija Kavtaradzė's romantic drama that dances in the worlds of real intimacy, sexuality, and bodies. Elena (Greta Grinevičiūtė) is a contemporary dancer and dance instructor who finds a new kind of affinity when Dovydas (Kęstutis Cicėnas) arrives at her studio to interpret for her new group of deaf dancers. The two of them slowly but surely continue to see each other and take steps toward a relationship, though soon Dovydas also tells her that he's asexual, something that introduces new movements and rhythms for Elena in the way she explores love and romance.
Since the film is so much about the newfound chemistry between Elena and Dovydas, it's notable that its presence is the film's strongest asset thanks to Grinevičiūtė and Cicėnas' sharing of spaces. Both actors are making their feature film debuts and not only are they just perfectly cast for the roles but they are also able to create a believable spark between the characters that carries a viewer with a gentle touch. That's highly important since Slow talks about body language, attraction, consent and communication, all of which are reflected in the characters' professions as well. Elena and Dovydas are both well-rounded as people—certainly flawed but they confidently engage in exchanges about their desires or boundaries and are aware of the space and energy they take and require (and mostly aware of how they can give that to another person in return).
When characters have such strong minds already, it's twice as hard to have arguments and disagreements that ring true in cinematic form and unfortunately Kavtaradze's writing doesn't exactly align with her sensitive direction or cinematographer Laurynas Bareiša's subtle movement and closeups during those moments as well as it should and could. To be clear, those moments are fleeting and it doesn't burn down the chemistry or one's connection to the story; it's merely a flaw, an imperfection that is just as natural as a wrongly worded sentiment of Elena's in regard to Dovydas' sexuality or his rarely emerging insecurity about his masculinity. That's something that can happen even when you have good intentions. You just have to talk about it later, preferably as honestly as you can.
Smileys: Acting, characterisation
Shawty got slow.