“Small, Slow but Steady”: an exploration of human frailty

While boxing movies vary in story and focus, most follow an arc that leads from tough training and setbacks to a climactic bout that decides it all. Sho Miyake’s “Small, Slow but Steady” subverts this arc, however, as well as genre clichés. Based on the autobiography of a deaf professional boxer, the film focuses less on the blood-stained pugilism and more on the drama outside the ring, including the protagonist’s struggle with her own reasons for fighting.

And, yes, there’s a big final showdown, but those expecting drag-and-drop theatrics will be disappointed. “Rocky,” this movie is not. Yet it is moving leisurely in its examination of human frailty without being pessimistic about human resilience.

We first meet Keiko (Yukino Kishii) in December 2020, when she has already turned pro and won her first fight. He’s in the middle of training for his next fight while dealing with his brother and roommate Seiji (Himi Sato), who’s behind on his rent and skeptical about his career choice. To stay afloat financially, Keiko works as a cleaner in a luxury hotel. So far, it’s a typical story, as there is no such thing as a boxing movie protagonist without personal headwinds.

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