Small, Slow But Steady

Reviewed by Ian Payne

If you think of a film about boxing, the stereotypes of Rocky or Raging Bull spring to mind.

A different take on the noble art was offered by Slow, Small but Steady, based on the memoire of Keiko Ogasawara, a deaf, female boxer from Tokyo.

As befits the title, the film is both slow and steady – professional boxing at the lower level is not at all glamorous and the film focusses on what motivates Keiko to fight. Put simply, she has had a tough childhood as a result of her deafness and has always had to fight for herself. Even getting her professional licence has been a struggle as she cannot hear the referee or the bell but with the patronage of 'The Chairman', the owner of a boxing gym, she makes her debut in the ring. We see her at the end of her second fight, bloodied but unable to hear the judges' score, unable to hear that she had won.

Fight scenes are kept to a minimum but we do see the effort Keiko puts in to her training, the syncopated beat of boxing gloves against training mitts is the abiding soundtrack of the film.

As the Chairman's health declines, Keiko's motivation declines with it and we are left to wonder whether it is the boxing or The Chairman's role as a father figure that she will miss when the gym finally closes.

It is not Rocky. It is not blood and glory but a simple tale that draws you in to the world of a deaf athlete and the issues she faces. The mark of a good film is when you start to care about the characters. I still worry about Keiko.