Racking my brain to think of what exposure I’ve had to the concept of asexuality, I can come up with two examples: the personal life section of Janeane Garofalo’s Wikipedia page, and an interview with a man on a Canadian late-night television show (I think it was SexTV?) explaining it as if an alien. Well, with that limited knowledge, I was hoping Marija Kavtaradze’s Sundance-feted Slow would shine some light on the subject, rendering it into a dramatically compelling topic that I didn’t regard as somewhat of a joke. Yet this ho-hum relationship drama––the Sundance premiere makes a lot of sense; this is essentially the European iteration of the forgettable movies that fill up that fest––which has little in the way of surprise, tension or genuine romantic sweep, disappoints in that regard.

There’s not an entirely bad setup: we have at its center the simmering relationship between Elena (Greta Grinevičiūtė) and Dovydas (Kęstutis Cicėnas), the former a dance instructor and the latter a sign-language interpreter who meet over a movement class for deaf students. Perceptive to body language, they take an instant liking to each other, but a complication emerges during what seems like an intimate encounter: Dovydas reveals that he’s asexual. They still want to continue some kind of relationship, but every attempt at sex (this film has more scenes set in a bed than most porn) ends in frustration and thus them gravitating from each other and then back again. 

All the makings of a great romantic drama seem present. Elena and Dovydas are believable as a couple (or half-couple) helped by the strong performers, and the grainy 16mm photography implies some kind of formal ambition. Yet Slow’s style eventually grows dull. A steady diet of naturalism over 108 minutes is generally not my idea of a good time, especially when the stakes and eventual outcome remain so rooted in “nicecore” tonality that nothing other than the moderate charm and rooting interest of the leads can hook you; it feels too many of their confrontations are depicted as whispering rather than fits of passion. Even the academic angle of communication through dance and sign language is not rendered in a particularly interesting fashion, with the camera bobbing closely to their faces one too many times. 

Concerning communication: the narrative is told deliberately free of technology, as though to make this a more classical love story, but maybe that points to a bit of a problem. In shying away from more specific anxieties of modern love, one can’t help but think of all the things it’s avoiding in general by pushing the onscreen relationship to more interesting places. If anything, this film should feel like a call to filmmakers to make their work less boring. Those two examples from the first paragraph are probably more illuminating and entertaining––even a Wikipedia section––than this feature-length film. 

Slow is now in limited release.

Grade: C

No more articles