Slow Pulse

By Marshall Tyler | Drama
A man learns to heal through dance -- in a story of love and hope.

Bernard is the odd man out at his dance class. For one, he's a middle-aged man in a class full of little girls. And secondly, he's struggling to master the art form, outpaced by the aspiring ballerinas around him.

But Bernard doesn't give up. He's determined to nail his routine down, in time for the class recital. He practices relentlessly, pushing himself even when he fails, again and again. Because he's not dancing just for himself, but for someone else he loves more than anything.

Written and directed by Marshall Tyler, this Oscar-eligible drama is equal parts grace and grit, detailing a classic "fish out of water" scenario and layering it with a heartfelt, deeply moving tribute to a father's love for his son. The film is shot with dynamism and elegance that reflects the beauty of Bernard's chosen art form. There's a sculpted, thoughtful quality in the stateliness of the compositions and the subdued, melancholic cinematography, which is given energy and power by the movement and editing tempo.

But it is Bernard's emotional core that truly pulls viewers along his odyssey to learn his choreography, much less render it with skill and poise. As the narrative unfolds, we enter into a mystery as we wonder why this older, middle-aged man is trying to dance, and the first part of the story concerns Bernard's struggles as he tries to keep up with his class and practices. Even the teacher is doubtful of Bernard's abilities, questioning just why he's doing it all in the first place.

As Bernard, actor Jimmie Fails -- who gained critical acclaim for his role in The Last Black Man in San Francisco -- has a compelling conviction, strength and resilience, but more importantly, a father's tenderness and vulnerability. As the storytelling unfurls, we see the reasons why Bernard has taken on this task, and what drives him forward. The reveal to the audience coincides with Bernard's reminder to himself of why he's subjecting himself to such an ordeal and what's at stake for his family.

The realization gives him, and the narrative, renewed momentum, powering us forward to the tremendous, moving final sequence that makes "Slow Pulse" such a stirring experience. In its beauty and power, it captures why dance is such a visceral expression of human emotion, giving shape to raw angst, desire or joy, sometimes even all at once. The power is not in its proximity to or from perfection, but from the sheer dedication that comes through each hard-earned step. But more than anything, it captures just how deeply a parent's love for their child can go, as Bernard's final dance becomes not just a series of moves, but a hopeful tribute to his son.

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