Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Slow – a dancer and a sign language interpreter spark chemistry in this confident second feature from director Marija Kavtaradzė (Queen’s Film Theatre from Friday 24 May)

A choreographer and dancer catches the eye of a sign language interpreter who is assisting a class she’s running with deaf students who are rehearsing a routine to perform at a summer camp. Elena (played by Greta Grinevičiūtė) is muscular, expressive and sensual. Dovydas (Kęstutis Cicėnas) is tall, shy and hesitant right until he suddenly becomes impulsive and asks her out for a walk.

Lithuanian director and screenwriter Marija Kavtaradzė confidently relays their gentle and easy-going courtship, with the couple becoming incredibly relaxed as they spend time with each other. The tempo is unlike Elena’s usual frenetic and more promiscuous yet ultimately disappointing hookups. And right when it’s all becoming serious, Dovydas reveals that he’s asexual, spinning Slow in a totally different direction as Elena grapples with a man that she connects with not wanting or needing the relationship to be sexual. There are many boundaries to be negotiated.

“I can’t be the person you need.”

Over 108 minutes, Kavtaradzė explores what it means for Dovydas to be asexual. His inner confidence is continuously held in tension with his vulnerability, always waiting for the moment that a partner will walk out feeling terminally dissatisfied. Slow also examines the balance between what Elena is giving up and what she might gain, though the dance teacher spends longer listing her regrets than her blessings as she struggles to redefine what her new ‘normal’ might look like.

The theme of living differently and denying or being denied aspects of life that others find ‘normal’ is also seen through the lens of Elena’s childhood friend who is now a nun (Laima Akstinaitė) as well as the deaf/sign language elements of the film. The scenes with deaf students allow movement and dance to come to fore, showcasing Grinevičiūtė’s talent.

Routinely expressive with his hands and face, Donvydas’ clumsy combination of dad- and disco-dancing is very amateur until a beautiful scene in a bar where he stands at a distance from Elena, mirroring her gestures as she turns him into an elegant performer. And watch out for the choreographed hanging up the washing. The chemistry between the two leads can be electric.

Kavtaradzė doesn’t offer any easy answers in this fresh and compelling romantic story. If your screening is anything like the preview I attended, you’ll walk out of the cinema into the bright light of the foyer with questions rattling around your head that will cause vivid conversations with strangers to begin.

Slow is being screened in Queen’s Film Theatre from Friday 24 May.


Enjoyed this review? Why not click on the Buy Me a Tea button!

No comments: