Tenderness and heartache in Marija Kavtaradzė’s “Slow”4 min read

 In Baltics, Focus, Format, Review, Reviews

Lithuanian director Marija Kavtaradzė’s 2023 film Slow (Lit: Tu man nieko neprimeni, which directly translates to “You Don’t Remind Me of Anything”) expertly and tenderly depicts an unconventional relationship that breaks traditional norms, one not often portrayed on the big screen.

In this romantic drama, contemporary dancer Elena (Greta Grinevičiūtė) meets Dovydas (Kęstutis Cicėnas), a sign language interpreter who helps Elena run dance classes for deaf teenagers. The two promptly show interest in each other, and soon embark on a relationship. As Dovydas is asexual, they decide to establish their own form of intimacy, which becomes the film’s focus, as well as the hurdles they come across.

The film delicately captures how two people, navigating how to be with each other, struggle with the feeling of not being enough for the person they love, and the complexity of dealing with these emotions. It is both heart-wrenching and heart-warming to watch two people feel strongly for each other, yet at the same time, unable to be who they want or need the other to be. The chemistry between the lead characters is impeccable, and one can’t help but to root for them.

True to its English title, Slow has a languid pace that fits perfectly with the story being told. The most important moments are in the measured, poignant silences. Glances between Elena and Dovydas or tender touches, broken up by dance scenes or sign language simultaneous interpretations of Lithuanian songs, set the tone of the film. There are a lot of close-ups of Elena and Dovydas’s faces, allowing their raw emotions to take centre stage. While the film’s dialogue is also important, Slow is just as much about what is left unsaid.

For all intents and purposes the film is about the pair’s relationship, but it privileges Elena’s perspective. We get to see Elena’s family and friends to a much greater extent than Dovydas’s life outside their relationship. Since the stories of people who identify as asexual are rarely told on the big screen, it would have been interesting to experience Dovydas’s perspective with more depth. Given the lack of equal perspectives, the viewer is instead likely to sympathise more with Elena’s struggles. 

Moreover, the film transcends sexuality and gender specificities and also depicts an experience familiar to many relationships, of having different sex drives and needs in a relationship and working around these disparities so that all feel seen and heard.

The film is accompanied by an alluring and powerful soundtrack, which resonates perfectly with the sentiments displayed. The song “We Fucked It Up” directly alludes to the plot, for example. April Snow, stage name for Swedish musician and composer Irya Gmeyner, contributes several songs to the soundtrack, alongside various Lithuanian artists such as Monika Liu.

For topics that are difficult to discuss, body movements become another way of transmitting feelings and dance provides a unique set of visuals to the story. Dance is allowed to take the lead in a large part of the film, with the emotions of the main characters being conveyed through it. While Elena is the dancer, the film is interspersed with scenes of Dovydas at his work as a sign language interpreter, signing to music, in a way performing his own form of choreography. Throughout the film, the two lead characters are trying to find out how to dance in sync, and their relationship can be interpreted as each trying to learn the other’s moves. One of the more touching scenes takes place in a bar where, in the midst of all the people, they only have eyes for each other and perform an intimate dance, mirroring the moves of the other.

Apart from the plot and soundtrack, Slow is also blessed with captivating cinematography. The graininess of the film perfectly transmits the feeling of long summer nights and late sunsets through the Baltic pine forests, providing a soft light and visual that matches the emotions of the characters, and making it hard to look away.

Slow premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, where it won the directing award for World Cinema. It was also Lithuania’s nomination for Best International Feature Film at the 2024 Academy Awards. The film is a beautiful demonstration of contemporary Lithuanian filmmaking; it will be interesting to see what Kavtaradzė turns to in her next storytelling venture.

Feature Image: Slow
Recommended Posts