Five Dances might be the least talky movie I've seen in months — but it's plenty expressive. What it says, it says silently, or at least nonverbally, in the music-and-movement language of Jonah Bokaer's haunting choreography, which speaks of solitary strivings and the brief, passionate connections that punctuate them.
In fact, the quiet appeal of Alan Brown's sensually photographed film (Derek McKane is the cinematographer) is in the way it extends that vocabulary into its non-dance scenes; it's a gentle, if slight, narrative full of fraught looks and knowing silences — which, frankly, might grow tiresome in another context — that communicate mood and character as clearly and lyrically as a fine dance piece.
Watch this, and tell me you don't learn something from that focus-pull at 8 seconds in, and from the tiny sidelong glance at 19 seconds:
If the dialogue toward the end of that clip is unremarkable, well, that's Five Dances' main weakness. But if Ryan Steele's delivery is a little devoid of affect there, that I'd bet is a choice. You'll learn things about his character that give him plenty of reason to be guarded and flat with the woman on the other end of that call — and he does work that ranges from richly subtle to goofily charming in other stretches.
This isn't a breakthrough film for anyone, I don't think. What it is: a lovingly shot valentine to work and body and art, and a generous, ultimately happy little story of a lost boy finding a community and a kindred soul.