Asexuality is not an identity that gets a lot of genuine representation on screen. Last year’s Girl Picture, also a Sundance film, explored the topic through one of its characters but focused more on the journey to discovering that identity for oneself. This year’s Slow, written and directed by Marija Kavtaradze, follows a couple as they navigate each other’s boundaries after one of them explains he’s asexual.
When dance instructor Elena (Greta Grineviciute) and sign language interpreter Dovydas (Kestutis Cicenas) meet, they have an instant connection. Elena explains to her friends that when she’s with Dovydas, it feels like she’s known him for ages. But when an invite into Elena’s place results in Dovydas telling her he’s asexual, Elena begins to pull back from the relationship.
While Elena’s reaction is a less-than-ideal one, Slow does feature frank discussions about identity and boundaries. Through meandering strolls through the streets and long, lazy mornings in bed, Elena asks questions, and Dovydas answers. It’s a tender exploration of two people learning how to be with each other.
Kavtaradze deploys a soft aesthetic to match that tender exploration, showcasing visually the intimacy between the characters that happens when sex is taken off the table. Elena and Dovydas create their own language and world with each other, and their closeness can sometimes feel like we’re interrupting a private moment. Sometimes, cutting needle drops appear when the drama turns sharper, disrupting their world.
However, despite the frankness and tenderness with which these discussions are had, sometimes the POV is too much in Elena’s court, who struggles more than she lets on with Dovydas’ asexuality. She often accuses him of lying about being asexual, and just not believing him when he explains parts of his identity she struggles with. While identities can be complicated, this is when Dovydas’ own perspective should have been considered.
Grineviciute and Cicenas have fantastic chemistry and easily carry the film through some of its more eye-brow-raising moments. Elena’s reactions to the bits of Dovydas’ asexuality she wasn’t expecting can read as shallow at first, but Grineviciute gives Elena a warmth hidden underneath. Cicenas wears Dovydas’ exasperation under a deep well of love but guides it with patience.
Slow has a bittersweet ending, but it’s a mature one—sometimes, love isn’t enough when someone can’t accept all that you are. Communication is key, even when you think you have been communicating the entire time. As far as asexual representation goes, Slow takes it time for necessary and frank dialogue about asexuality. It’s lovely to see a film explore a relationship like this, and go beyond the initial coming-out journey that. While those are necessary as well, there’s always more to the story.
Feature image courtesy of the Sundance Institute
Slow - 8/10