After leaving Harlem several years ago, Claire Bellew (Ruth Negga) reconnects with her childhood friend Irene Redfield (Tessa Thompson). Claire now passes for a white woman and is married to John Bellew (Alexander Skarsgard), who is openly hostile to black people and does not know that Claire is mixed race. As Claire and Irene’s lives begin to intertwine, Irene’s own insecurities begin to resurface …
With a subject as delicate and loaded with complex readings as race and sexuality in the United States, it’s a miracle that ‘Passing’ even made it to the screen. The source novel, written by Nella Larsen, was published in 1929 but its theme and subjects have never been far from today’s cultural landscape. Racial transmission, from which the title derives its name, may not be so openly discussed today, but it is still investigated and informs cultural production. Films like “La tache humaine”, “Europa Europa”, “Devil in a blue dress‘, and TV shows as varied as’ M * A * S * H *’ and ‘Law & Order’ have all examined the practice to one degree or another, but ‘Passing’ is different for a number of reasons. .
Not only does it tackle the subject directly, but it also incorporates questions of sexuality. The two characters, played wonderfully by Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga, are so locked in themselves and so protected that it is almost impossible to reach them. Tessa Thompson’s character Reenie is so closed and so sure of herself and her choices that for sure something – someone, in this case – is going to make her question everything, including her sexuality. . Likewise, the character of Ruth Negga exists in a world so built on a lie that when you give her the chance to be herself, you begin to wonder if there is any chance that she will explore it. simply or if she kisses him.
Because of this questioning and the compartmentalized nature of the two characters, we have the impression of watching “Pass” through a prism. Everything is kept at a distance, and the characters themselves do not dare to question or unearth their motives. It creates some incredibly tense scenes, and you almost watch ‘Passing’ with your breath held back. Yet when he allows himself a moment of relaxation, it is truly something to see. There’s a fantastic scene with Tessa Thompson and Bill Camp, who plays an urban writer and family friend, who really tries to be sharp in a way. Yet the rest of the time everything is so closed and impenetrable that it never really takes off as it should.
As mentioned, Ruth Negga and Tessa Thompson’s twin performances are amazing, and Rebecca Hall’s screenplay and directing utilizes both their physical presence and beauty, as well as their ability to subtly move and shape a scene from within. ‘at a glance or reading online. ‘Skip’ is done a lot by subtle choices, although the choice to film it in black and white can seem overwhelming. It’s pretty much the only thing in heavy stuff, everything else is done with such a delicate, thoughtful hand. For her directorial debut, Rebecca Hall made some bold and strong choices here and it is to her credit that she started with that. One can only hope that she gets the opportunity to work again as a director, as she clearly has things to say and has a unique way of approaching them.
“Passing” is a movie that requires patience, as it moves at such a slow pace and part of the game is played at such a tiny level that it is almost impossible to see. Still, there is something truly unique here, and if you allow it, it’s a fascinating experience to see.