I was privileged to spend part of the pandemic watching the creation of The Secret Society for Slow Romance unfold on social media, and was absolutely thrilled to get a chance to be one of the earliest screeners for the movie. While I was worried about how Sujewa Ekanyake’s movie would handle a comedic romance during a global pandemic, I was delighted to find that it dealt with the pandemic (and a variety of deep subjects) with a heavy dose of wit and a sprinkle of intelligent, disarming earnestness. The movie is like a warm, cozy blanket — soothing and comfortable, and good for uplifting spirits. Ultimately, The Secret Society for Slow Romance is a cozy love note to cinema, independent film-making, and New York City.
I can’t be sure of how I initially started following independent filmmaker Sujewa on social media, but it probably has to do with our shared love of David Lynch (and an admiration for what Dune was). I was certain I’d watch anything he made once I watched his incredible slow cinema comedic noir “Werewolf Ninja Philosopher.”
On the most fundamental level, The Secret Society for Slow Romance is a slow cinema romantic comedy that explores what happens when two extraordinary people go on a few dates in New York City. The slow cinema styling allows us to explore big questions and even larger answers as filmmakers Rene (Sujewa Ekanayake) and Allyson (Alia Lorae) share take-out, conversation, and beautiful views of New York City. Throughout the movie, shots are allowed to linger on interesting spaces, objects, and people — the soft, welcoming glow gives character to the camera itself, which should be no surprise in a movie focused on two filmmakers.
Rene and Allyson aren’t just any filmmakers. Scientific studies found Rene to be the Happiest Man in North America. Allyson was voted The Most Productive Person in NY City by an independent film site. Through conversational exploration of the differences in their approaches to independent movie making, as well as their respective interests, we’re invited to contemplate all that cinema has to offer the world and just what a vast scope the word ‘film’ encompasses.
During the movie, Allyson and Rene talk about their ambitions in film, and it was wonderful to feel like I was in on conversations about some of the challenges of independent filmmaking.
“I never really thought of happiness as a goal to achieve, I just kind of thought of it as something that happens like other things in life.” — Allyson
I found myself, more than once, jotting down pages of notes of what Rene thought we should all learn in junior high — the movie is so dense with philosophical concepts and film references that attempting to catalog them all is a feat in and of itself. The slow, easy timing of the movie and laugh out loud absurdist humor makes the dense material playful. This positive atmosphere permeates every moment of the film. While Rene often comments on his surprise that Allyson hasn’t encountered a concept, that surprise is never from a place of judgement. Allyson’s interest in the most independent and experimental of films doesn’t reject anything more popular. In other words — these two characters are too comfortable in their own skin to be bothered with that.
While the bulk of the film is focused on time with Rene and Allyson together, it doesn’t mean that the world of The Secret Society for Slow Romance isn’t filled with interesting characters. Days after watching, I found myself wondering about the adventures of characters like Pyjama Jams and Tor. We also get to spend some time with Allyson in her space, dictating her thoughts to her phone ala Dale Cooper’s microcasettes. Every moment and space has thoughtful purpose, and gives these scenes space to breathe, reflect, and admire.
Because we spend so much time with Rene and Allyson together, it was refreshing to see them talking, listening, and reflecting with each other. While many films with philosophical concepts create talking-head vehicles for monologues, The Secret Society for Slow Romance remembers that it is, indeed, a romance — and space for conversation is important to such things. Questions are asked and answered with earnestness, and while the conversation topics can soar to incredible, elevated discussions exploring the nature of happiness, Rene and Allyson never take themselves or the subject matter too seriously. This is the rare sort of movie that allows you to curl up in a comfortable part of the world while still acknowledging the faults of that world.
Yet, The Secret Society for Slow Romance isn’t satisfied with the boy meets girl plot. A Secret Society should have a loftier, larger project — one that could transform independent film making and ultimately end world poverty. But to understand how it all works, you need to see the movie, it’s worth it. Besides, Google won’t help you find that bit about Winston Churchill.
The Secret Society For Slow Romance will be released in April 2022, and you can go to the official website, https://www.slowromancemovie.com, to track the film’s progress towards saving the world!