Sundance 2023 Review: Slow

by Andrew Parker

Lithuanian filmmaker Marija Kavtaradze’s layered and unique romance Slow asks important, potentially unanswerable questions of its viewers. Why do people feel the compulsion to have their relationships conform to the norms of everyone else around them? Furthermore, can a romantic relationship between two differently wired people survive if it forces them to change who they are in the first place? Even if viewers can’t identify with either of the main characters on a level of personal experience, Kavtaradze (Summer Survivors) imbues Slow with a wealth of exceptionally crafted emotion that will suck them in. Slow is a drama about complex, relatable people in a wholly believable situation that hasn’t been depicted on screen in such a way before.

Elena (Greta Grineviciute) is a dance instructor and serial dater who has developed a crush on Dovydas (Kestutis Cicenas), a sign language interpreter that has been brought in to work with one of her classes. The attraction between them is apparent immediately, and a few early hang outs and dates suggest a lot of potential for the future. Things change when Dovydas admits that he’s asexual, and that he doesn’t crave or particularly enjoy the sort of physical love and attention that Elena desires. Dovydas pushes himself to try to bridge this gap – like he has something to prove – but it’s often too much, while Elena continues to seek sexual satisfaction outside of their otherwise healthy and mutually supportive relationship.

Some of the story wrinkles that arise throughout Slow are a bit obvious, but that doesn’t make Kavtaradze’s work any less poignant, and the decision to shoot on film adds a visual sense of wistfulness with slight hints of grief and stress. The romance is real and palpable, built around a “will they or won’t they” scenario that actually has deeply felt stakes. The chemistry between Grineviciute and Cicenas is outstanding, with both performers using subtlety to show why getting to know someone inside and out is one of the most intimate aspects of a relationship in its early days. 

The film also never lives up to its title, but rather Slow shows how taking ones time in the name of love can lead to sometimes painful snap decisions and long term life changes that won’t take hold immediately. It’s a love story about learning and growing as a person, and even if Slow doesn’t end up where viewers want it to, at least the relationship depicted has been the sort of formative one that people don’t tend to forget.

Slow screened as part of the 2023 Sundance Film Festival.

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