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by Rose Finlay

Shô Miyake, Japan │ France 2022

Keiko (Yukino Kishii) is a young Japanese woman who is an exceptional boxer. She is greatly impacted when her coach must shut his boxing ring down due to health reasons. It is difficult to find another gym to train her due to her complete deafness in both ears. Even though she is incredibly talented, the fact that she can’t hear the referee’s instructions, or the starting bell can make it more dangerous for her and others in the ring. Knowing that she will have to find a new gym greatly demotivates Keiko who must decide whether she still wants to continue.

SMALL, SLOW BUT STEADY lives up to its title as a quiet and contemplative character study which rests solely on the power of the lead actress to keep the audience’s attention. Yukino Kishii does an exceptional job bringing Keiko to life, with all of her strength, talent, and frustrations. Director Shô Miyake’s decision to have the film be set during the pandemic (instead of ignoring it or setting it in the past as often seems to be the case these days), only adds to the realism and difficulties that Keiko must experience. Face masks make it even harder for her to understand others as she can’t read lips when they are worn. As a viewer, the decision to include masks felt quite impactful, as it is a reminder that for better or for worse, this is our life now and is the new normal.

Despite its slow pace and introspective nature, SMALL, SLOW BUT STEADY still manages to pack an emotional punch and brings to light a character perspective which isn’t shown very often on screen; for that alone it is an interesting watch.