‘Slow’ 2023 Ending Explained & Movie Summary: Do Elena And Dovydas Break Up?

It takes a minute to get what’s really going on in Marija Kavtaradze’s Slow. Once it clicks, the film becomes eerily relatable. The characters feel like friends and acquaintances, and the conversations appear to be the kind we have in real life. I’m obviously speaking from a personal perspective here, but not since Spike Jonze’s Her (2013) have we seen a film on relationships that speaks to its audience on such a personal level. The intentionally done grainy texture and the extreme close-up shots only make the experience more intense. Although the primary focus of the show is the asexuality of its male lead—something that hasn’t been explored much by cinema—the film as a whole is a deconstruction of intimacy and relationships. Understandably, Slow has been quite a critical darling, from winning at the Sundance film festival to being selected as the official Lithuanian entry for the 2024 Academy Awards. But it has every chance of becoming a “go-to film” about sexuality as well as modern-day relationships in years to come. In this article, I’m going to dissect the film, especially the ending.

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Spoilers Ahead


How Did Elena And Dovydas Meet?

While teaching a group of deaf and dumb students, contemporary dancer Elena meets sign-language instructor Dovydas. They get instantly attracted to each other, and Elena is over the moon with her new crush. It’s quite evident that her tryst with romantic relationships hasn’t been that great so far. Just when you think the two would confess their feelings for each other, Dovydas tells Elena that he is asexual. In fact, it happens in a rather awkward moment, which clearly looks like the two are about to get physical. Elena is dumbfounded by this piece of information, while Dovydas looks a little embarrassed. She doesn’t know what to do, which also kind of reflects the audience’s state of mind. I thought the film made a wonderful decision by exploring asexuality from the perspective of Elena, which is the same as most of the audience regarding the term. So Elena asks the obvious question first: Is Dovydas really into her? 

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The thing about sexuality (or asexuality, in this context) is that it is something that can only be experienced and not seen. So for most people, including yours truly, it is not easy to understand. But Dovydas not only reassures Elena that he genuinely likes her, he also lets her know that’s actually the reason behind him telling her the big secret. And actor Kestutis Cicenas is so convincing in the role that you (and Elena, played by Greta Grineviciute) do realize that he’s actually telling the truth. However, the dynamics of whatever their relationship is have obviously changed, and nothing can be done about that. 

A lot of activities in Slow work like a reaction to something, like Elena trying to fulfill her physical urges by going to Vilius (the film never exactly clarifies whether he was an ex or just a fling from the past, but it’s most likely the latter) and then getting disappointed. The camera zooms in on her face, and you can literally see the endless gloom in her face. It’s Dovydas who she wants—with her head, heart, and everything else.

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Do Elena And Dovydas Get Into A Relationship?

Would you get into a romantic relationship with an asexual person? I’m being rhetorical here, but not only does Slow put that question in front of us; it even challenges the notion. I’m sure it was a creative decision to write Elena’s character as someone with a higher desire for intimacy, and what is even brilliant is the film’s choice to utilize visual storytelling to express this instead of depending on words. From the way she dances with unbridled passion to how she looks at Dovydas throughout the movie, it becomes very evident. It is also fitting for Elena to have an extremely physical profession, in stark contrast to what Dovydas does, which largely depends on communication and gestures. It probably wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to say that their respective professions act as metaphors for who they are.

But when they do get into the relationship, it looks very believable. And it happens very organically. It’s very important for a film like Slow to have certain moments in the narrative to properly establish its character. Let us take the scene where Elena visits her disapproving mother, for example. She doesn’t want to bring Dovydas because she probably feels it would be awkward to get him into this thing. But Dovydas still insists, and the way he comforts Elena after the heated exchange she has with her mother only proves how much he actually cares for her. Not to mention, Dovydas can actually make Elena laugh—even with a joke as idiotic as her three-month-old scrunchie being made out of telephone wire.

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The relationship of Elena and Dovydas appearing to be like any other happy relationship is where the film supports the theory of romance and physical intimacy being two completely different things. Slow shows us that a genuinely strong, affectionate bond can be formed without an iota of eroticism. I should mention that the soundtrack of the film (which I searched for on Spotify right after finishing it, but sadly, no luck) plays a very important part in this.


Do Elena And Dovydas Break Up In The End?

My favorite moment of Slow has to be the scene where a slightly drunk Dovydas is voicing his opinion on labeling the relationship between two (or maybe more) people into certain brackets, which effectively means constraining yourself by societal rules. Of course, it is the same scene where he also says to Elena that he has no problem if she sleeps with other people. Unfortunately, this comes from a dark place, where Dovydas is disappointed with himself for not being able to be the “ideal man” for Elena. Throughout the film, we see Dovydas trying to be okay with getting intimate with Elena. One must remember that asexual people can very well perform the bodily act, but it’s not something that they want or need. While Dovydas keeps trying, Elena feels bad about it because, for her, it’s the person she loves who’s trying to do something that he doesn’t quite enjoy. This, in many ways, is a situation that is both impossible and solvable.

I have already discussed how, in this film, a character’s activity is used as a reaction to an event. When Vilius appears at Elena’s door to profess his love for her on a really drunken night, Dovydas does get jealous. Why else would he be the one to randomly make an attempt at getting physical with Elena on the same night, especially when Vilius is sleeping in the same room? 

Dovydas’ jealousy is an emotion that does make sense in the context of this story, but we can’t really say it is completely justified. And that’s mainly because Elena does make it quite clear that it’s Dovydas with whom she wants to be. He’s the one she loves, and she doesn’t really intend to sleep with anyone else. Elena does have to deal with the conflict between her mind and body, though. There’s a clear sign of erotic flirtation between her and her co-worker Dan, but when he makes a move on her, Elena rejects his advances, which implies her loyalty towards her relationship. But why would she indulge in all that flirtation in the first place? And why would you visit Vilius with the clear intention of sleeping with him after having a fight with Dovydas? It is rather sad that Elena and Dovydas both try their best to not hurt each other, but in the end they fail to do so.

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It breaks your heart to see them closing the curtains on their relationship, even when they’re in love with each other. Elena even confesses that she fears that the whole thing wouldn’t have any significance if they weren’t together. But Dovydas has already made up his mind, and we know for a fact that it is the right thing to do. Slow starts with Elena getting intimate with a random person who is requesting her to utter the three magical words; otherwise, he wouldn’t be able to perform. It ends with Elena meeting another man, with whom things are going to get physical for sure—and she does look okay, which suggests that maybe she’s over Dovydas. For a fleeting moment though, she does think about something, but when this new man asks what, Elena replies nothing. But we know for a fact that Elena is lying, which is only convenient because how is she going to explain what happened? 

Before the screen turns black, we see Dovydas one last time looking straight into the camera while explaining a song with gestures. If we go by the lyrics of the song, then we have to come to the conclusion that he is heartbroken. But the way he looks at us, it seems like he is also going to be okay. It’s almost like a meta-Fleabag moment, where we’re (remember, Elena is also us here) saying “I love you” to Dovydas, and he’s replying, “It’ll pass.”

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Rohitavra Majumdar
Rohitavra Majumdar
Rohitavra likes to talk about movies, music, photography, food, and football. He has a government job to get by, but all those other things are what keep him going.

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