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SUNDANCE 2023 World Cinema Dramatic Competition

Review: Slow


- Marija Kavtaradze choreographs and X-rays the feeling of love with extreme sensory delicacy under the bark of the extraordinary of a case of asexuality

Review: Slow
Greta Grinevičiūtė and Kęstutis Cicėnas in Slow

"Do you like me? - Yes - How do you know? - I just know. But I'm not going to change - Neither am I." What could be more timeless, classic and inevitably empathetic than the subject of love, which has already been explored endlessly in film? It is this universal theme that the highly original Marija Kavtaradze (noticed in Toronto in 2018 thanks to her first feature, Summer Survivors) confronts with Slow [+see also:
interview: Marija Kavtaradze
film profile
, unveiled at the Sundance Film Festival in the World Cinema Dramatic competition. But the singularity of the young Lithuanian filmmaker, gifted with a very fine sensitivity, is expressed in a doubly unexpected way: firstly, because one of the two protagonists of her romantic filmic essay is asexual, and secondly, because she doesn't make this the major issue of her plot, preferring to revolve around this narrative pivot in order to better sift through a vast range of subtle sensations and feelings.

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"Just find a place for yourself and try to stay in that moment." Elena (Greta Grinevičiūtė) is a dancer with a very free emotional and sexual life ("I hardly understand how people can deliberately want a serious relationship") when she meets Dovydas (Kęstutis Cicėnas), a sign language interpreter, who has come to assist her in a class she is teaching to deaf people. Between the two of them, connection and communication are instantaneous and very natural ("I had this strange feeling that I had known him all my life"), as they wander through the streets of the city. But when Elena wants to take action, Dovydas tells her his secret ("I'm not attracted to anyone sexually, I never have been. I like you, that's why I'm telling you"). Even then, they fall in love with each other and start to live together as a couple, which of course is not without some trial and error and some questions...

Can we love someone without sex? Slow undulates pianissimo (over several seasons) around its sentimental melodic motif. For it is above all about bodies, tenderness, sensations, glances, sincerity and exchanges. A lacework of intimate micro-variations progressively digging into the heart of the plot (written by the director) which registers echoes in Elena's dance rehearsals ("it's cool that we're so close without colliding - let's try changing the tempo"). And a film that naturally also owes a lot to its two main performers and to Laurynas Bareiša's delicate photography.

With this second feature, Marija Kavtaradze confirms the promises of Summer Survivors and succeeds in imposing her personality as a filmmaker on a very ordinary subject (love, the purity of feelings, a form of spirituality) under its extraordinary envelope (asexuality). All this in a sensory style, nourished by an excellent sense of dialogue and unafraid of difficulties, notably by choosing a rhythm which, as the film's title indicates, is very peaceful.

Produced by Lithuanian outfit M-Films and co-produced by Spanish company Frida Films and Swedish outfits Garagefilm International and Film Stockholm, Slow is sold internationally by Totem Films.

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(Translated from French)

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