Memorable & Perfectly Cast
I watched Passing several days ago and can’t stop thinking about it. Although taking place back in the 1920s in Harlem and the Big Apple, everything that happens on the black-and-white screen seems real. So I am still worrying about Irene, the main character, and wondering how her life turned out during the period after the end of the film. That has never happened to me before!
Tessa Thompson delivers a superb performance as Irene, the wife of a Harlem doctor (André Holland). She’s also active in the Civil Rights movement but doesn’t want anyone to talk about the bad things happening to Negroes in front of her children. Throughout the film, we have to guess what Irene is thinking most of the time. But Thompson is such a great actress her beautiful face reveals almost everything. And she gets excellent help with intriguing close-ups from cinematographer Edu Grau.
Matching Thompson’s performance, Ruth Negga plays glamorous Clare, a friend from the past who is now passing as the wife of a well-to-do New York racist lawyer (Alexander Skarsgard). Clare is curious, outgoing, a bit flirty, and quite fashionable. When these two old friends accidently meet again, both of their lives change completely.
PASSING, a film in black and white,
boasts two women playing roles right.
Thompson and Negga take us in
to their dual worlds. But will one win?
To pass or not to pass it seems
a question asked as if in dreams.
Two high school friends meet after years.
One is passing, the other fears.
Surprisingly, their friendship grows.
Yet between them soon tension shows.
Dangers lurk in so many ways.
Party nights and sociable days.
Love, obsession and jealousy.
A spellbinder you ought to see.
Writer/director Rachel Hall deserves high praise for her first feature film production. Her adaptation of the 1929 novel by Nella Larsen should earn an Oscar® nomination. Although I haven’t read the source, now I want to. Kudos also to Edu Grau for the unique cinematography and to Devonté Hynes for music that increases the tension in so many scenes. Plus, costumes, hair and make-up as well as production design help us go back to the 1920s.
I want a sequel.
It’s funny about “passing.” We disapprove of it and at the same time condone it. It excites our contempt and yet we rather admire it. Why shy away from it with an odd kind of revulsion, but we protect it. --- Nella Larsen
(Released by Netflix and rated “R” by MPAA.)