Updated: Jun 17
In an enlightened future where humans no longer need to procreate, one woman risks her life to investigate the mystery of motherhood.
Where many high concept short films fall into the trap of either focusing on concept at the expense of story and character or dive so deep into form that they neglect function, writer/director Nicole Perlman (co-writer of Captain Marvel and Guardians of the Galaxy) manages to pull off a balancing act of premise, pacing and character journey that results in a thoughtful, tense and sobering short film experience.
Following Eryn (Annet Mahendru), a journalist living in a world where the human race has been “saved” by eugenics, we are introduced to an advanced civilisation. Mention is made extensively as to how perfect life is for these new humans, now that people are genetically engineered and immediately produced as functioning adults, doing away with procreation and childhood altogether.
We are also introduced to a subset of humanity that refuses to integrate with a society that refuses to let go of their old ways. These people, referred to as “slows” are kept in a woodland reserve, separated from society and guarded like an endangered species.
Amid a rumour of the slows reserve being closed, Eryn secures a pass to observe these biological relics in a manner reminiscent of observing remote tribes or wildlife. In a scenario in which the act of carrying and giving birth to a child is considered primitive and barbaric, Perlman does an excellent job of telling the story through Eryn’s eyes, presenting something as intrinsically human as motherhood or childhood as something utterly alien (and crucially, unnecessary) to our protagonist.
The story is presented through Eryn’s idealism and naiveté, which leads Eryn to walk headlong into potential danger and the film does a great job of ratcheting up the tension as Eryn begins to grasp that she may be in over her head.
Considerable time is taken to not only establish the world in which the story takes place, but to establish and traverse Eryn’s character arc. Despite the 22-minute runtime, there is an effective economy of storytelling that Perlman employs in the narrative and visual pacing, not to mention some stunning cinematography from Adam Newport-Berra (Last Black Man in San Francisco). A lot of story is packed into a short space of time without the film feeling over-stuffed.
Refusing to be all plot, the film asks questions of us that touch on our sense of community, our relationship with technology, even the core of what makes us human beings. This is Without being accusatory or pious, the film elevates itself above just its premise to add real value to the narrative experience.
There are also some wonderfully tender moments captured during this journey, delivered via understated but incredibly effective performances from the cast and very up-close and intimate lensing from Newport-Berra.
The Slows is a brilliantly crafted and engrossing short film. While it is a highly effecting watch on just about any device, this is one short film that really benefits from being seen on the biggest screen you can get your hands on.
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Studio: Even/Odd | Year: 2018 | Genre: Sci-Fi/Drama | Duration: 22 Mins | Suitability: Mature