Passing – Film Review
by Fran Winston
Directed by: Rebecca Hall
Starring: Tessa Thompson, Ruth Negga, André Holland, Bill Camp, Gbenga Akinnagbe, Antoinette Crowe-Legacy, Alexander Skarsgård
In cinemas October 29th
Starkly shot in black and white, this follows two mixed-race childhood friends Irene (Thompson) and Clare (Negga) who are reunited as adults in the 1920s. Clare passes as Caucasian and even her husband doesn’t know her heritage. This is just as well since he is deeply prejudiced – something that Clare accepts. Meanwhile, Irene embraces her African American roots although she finds herself becoming increasingly intrigued by Clare’s world.
Based on a book written nearly 100 years ago the issues raised here are still as contentious today. Both Thompson and Negga are impressive in their roles and despite a strong supporting cast they completely carry the film. However, Director Rebecca Hall doesn’t always seem to know how to deal with some of the more turbulent themes and this often feels watered down.
The black and white and 4:3 aspect ratio give this an olde worlde feeling and if you didn’t know better you would easily think that this was made in the 30s or 40s and not in the last couple of years. Forgoing a soundtrack, Hall uses the residual sounds of day-to-day life to great effect.
The story is extremely thought-provoking and lingers long after the credits roll. It perhaps could have benefited from a more experienced director but this is a solid debut that is delicate and nuanced if lacking in verve.