Greta Grineviciute and Kestusis Cicenas star in "Slow." Photo courtsy of Sundance Institute
Jan. 22 (UPI) -- The Lithuanian film Slow, which premiered Saturday at the Sundance Film Festival, is a tender love story about a relatively new kind of relationship. It has the potential to educate viewers about asexuality and make asexuals feel seen and heard.
Dancer Elena (Greta Grineviciute) meets Dovydas (Kestutis Cicenas) when he comes to translate for her class of deaf students. As they begin to get to know each other, Dovydas informs Elena that he is asexual, meaning he is not interested in sex.
Asexuality is a real way people identify, and it's beginning to be portrayed more in narrative media. The Netflix animated series Bojack Horseman even had one of its characters discover asexuality.
Elena and Dovydas get to know each other in a way that's rarely captured in movie romances. There's no contrived meet-cute as in a Hollywood romantic comedy. Rather, they walk through campus together and learn about each other.
Elena is curious about asexuality and Dovydas wants to show her affection without misleading her. She tests boundaries with him physically, but consensually. She asks him before touching him.
Slow compares and contrasts Elena's time with Dovydas and the dates with men with whom Elena sleeps. With whom does Elena actually have more intimacy?
One can imagine this exploration reaching a point at which one person is disappointed they've reached the other's limit. Where Slow goes is unexpected, but faithful to the characters it established.
There is no end to the questions one could ask about the compatibility of Elena and Dovydas' lifestyles. They manage to work through the most obvious issues, so the factors that create the most conflict for them are more surprising.
Ultimately, communicating Elena and Dovydas' unique individual needs becomes harder than figuring out their physicality. That's the universal challenge of all relationships: communication.
As new actors, Grineviciute and Cicenas command the screen with their natural chemistry. It is Cicenas' first credit and Grineviciute was in two prior short films. Grineviciute also is a captivating dancer.
Slow is a sensitive drama about people looking for connection. Writer-director Marija Kavtaradze respects her characters' needs and takes the audience on a loving journey.
Fred Topel, who attended film school at Ithaca College, is a UPI entertainment writer based in Los Angeles. He has been a professional film critic since 1999, a Rotten Tomatoes critic since 2001 and a member of the Television Critics Association since 2012. Read more of his work in Entertainment.