Passing Review

Passing is based on the novel by Nella Larsen. It’s the first directorial outing for actress Rebecca Hall (ChristineThe Town). This has been a passion project for Hall for years. It’s a throwback to the films of the 1920s and ’30s when the story takes place. It’s quite a decision for a first-time filmmaker like Hall. She’s going out on a limb with Passing from a filmmaking standpoint.

The film tells the story of two women who inadvertently meet in Chicago after not seeing each other since they were kids. Irene Redfield (Tessa Thompson) and Claire Kendry (Ruth Negga) are two very similar women living vastly different lives. Claire is married to John (Alexander Skarsgard). She is living the time of her life. Irene is married to Brian (Andre Holland), a doctor. They are living successfully in Brooklyn. The problem is the two women are enamored with the life of the other one.

Passing is a black and white film that has a style of the time it takes place. With that comes a shallow depth of field and characters fading in and out of the camera from scene to scene. These tricks of the trade are throwbacks to a bygone era of film. Perfect for this film and its delicate sensibilities. The cinematography by Eduard Grau is as big a star of this film as its two leading ladies.

The two leading ladies, Thompson and Negga, are both terrific in this film. Both give phenomenal performances as these two women enamored with the other. The dialogue from Hall is incredible, and its subtleness has to be delivered very carefully. The time and place have to do with that. People can’t be so blatant with their verbiage like today. It’s delivered perfectly through the film. 

At the end of the day, Passing has a lot to say about people trying to be who they are not and wanting to be someone else. We are all tired of our lives and want a change sometimes. It’s something everyone deals with from time to time. In the case of these women, they want to be different people of different skin. Some people might be offended by this story. You should be proud of who you are and what color you are. Well, that’s not the thought process of some people. Right or wrong they just feel different sometimes. This goes for people of any race, creed, religion, or gender.

Passing has a lot to say about one’s identity. Are they happy in their lives? It’s a question everybody has to answer for themselves. In a great filmmaking style, Passing answers that question. People may not like it — it is just this story of these two women — but Hall brings the viewer into this world brilliantly. It’s rare the masses get to see such a breakout filmmaker as her. She can likely do whatever she wants after this. It’s an amazing film!

4 1/2 stars

Dan Skip Allen

Sean BoelmanFounder/EICdisappointment media

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