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Slow – Sundance 2023 (Film Review)

3 min read

Still Courtesy - Sundance Institute

Who doesn't love the artificial month of February? It's a time for phony romantic flings and kind-gestures, as Valentine's Day usually ingnites a new wave of romantic titles for the big-screen and small-screen alike. The holiday isn't perfect. In all of its glitzy performativity, lies the capital of its materialistic grassroots. Flower and chocolate sales sky-rocket, as the populace of susceptible consumers begin to plead for the satisfaction of an artificial relationship. On the flip-side of the ethical promiscuity of the notorious holiday, film festivals such as Rotterdam and Sundance usually bring forward new stories to the forefront of the international market. This year's obligatory romantic title was Slow; a Lithuanian film about and our culture's subsequent stigmatisation of the aforementioned sexual orientation. 

With Slow, Marija Kavtaradze explores the in-depth relationship between an A-sexual sign-language interpreter and a dance instructor. Their bodies talk with their meticulous movement — a physical-language barrier on display, demonstrating two unique methods of unearthed communication. At the genesis of the film's obligatory meet-cute, Kavtaradze demonstrates ample dimension into the couple's introspective conversations; slowly (pun-intended) examining power-roles and misconceptions about Asexuality along the way. Slow is more focused on dismantling stereotypes and misconceptions regarding Asexuality, then focusing on the traditional conventions of a three-act romance. In select scenes, spherical lenses are used to enhance the physical intimacy and character-proximity of the couple's relationship. Medium shots are then later used whenever distance is present within the couple's timeline of repetitive events. The visual language of Kavtaradze's feature is sharp and stunning, where the film-stock cinematography provides additional contrast with natural colours and delicate atmosphere. 

As for its narrative structure, Kavtaradze sacrifices poignancy for redundant melodrama. The poorly-founded developments are repetitive in its inanimate methodology. The worn out conflicts and directorial-language is  monotonous. While the film's visual repetition is somewhat justified with the film's endless rotation of fights and romantic rejoice — the narrative weight of the aforementioned rebounds occur with little emotional punch. The film descends further within its jumbled sequence of topsy-turvy events, as the commentary becomes pandering adjacent to its rushed conclusion. The final narrative beats are unearned, when compared with the severity of the film's depicted aphobia. 

Where Slow preaches for compassion and the creation of mutual dialogue, the pandering and rushed conclusion is only enforced by its lack of dialogue-growth. As the protagonists find themselves in a never-ending relationship conflict, the film also faces the same unfortunate tribulation through its underdeveloped narrative structure. Their conversations shift with little change or thematic alteration; unconvincingly repeating and rebounding with little cause or consequence. Slow concludes its un-rewarding romance with two hard-hitting shots. The depicted scenes are purposefully alienating, ironic, and devastating. When contrasted with the rest of her feature, the viewer's self-imposed realisations regarding Slow's cinematic quality expands through its filtered veil of faux-performativity. There was always potential at the crux of Kavtaradze's project — a film with great thematic intent but little emotional payoff. 

Slow premiered at this year's , as part of the ‘World Cinema Dramatic' competition. The film is currently seeking international distribution.