1hr 38mins

Based on the 1929 novel of the same name by Nella Larsen, Rebecca Hall’s directorial debut is an absorbingly fraught investigation of two childhood friends who, once reunited later in life, discover the contrasting ways in which they’ve chosen to present (or conceal) a shared experience of mixed racial heritage.

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Rebecca Hall

Exploring the practice of ‘racial passing’ in which African Americans with a lighter skin tone would choose to ‘pass’ as white, this is a film that encroaches on sensitive territory relatively unexplored in mainstream cinema.

Yet this is a delicately artful, intelligent portrayal of just how coded, dangerous and ambiguous the power dynamics between race, class, gender and sexuality could (and still can) be in a society in which prejudice still underpins social status.

The complexity of this socio-historical identity politics is told through the story of the troubled friendship between Clare (Ruth Negga, Loving, Ad Astra) and Irene (Tessa Thompson, Creed, Annihilation).

Irene identifies as African American and is married to a Black doctor (André Holland), whilst Clare ‘passes’ for white, and is married to a wealthy, and odiously racist white businessman (Alexander Skasgård).

Reconnecting after several years apart, their renewed friendship will reveal the faultines in how they’ve each decided to live their lives, leading to a confrontation that will change everything.

A portrait of a period in American history defined by racist binaries, Hall’s decision to shoot in black and white underlines Passing‘s central theme, whilst adding an extra layer of ambiguity to the most complex of personal stories.

The result is an immersive drama of intelligence, depth, and striking social commentary.


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