'Passing' review: A wonderful look into racial passing and more
Actress Rebecca Hall debuted as a director with her independent project Passing. Starring Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga in the lead, the black and white film focuses on racial passing, the world of New York City in the 1920s, and the uproar of raw emotions. André Holland and Alexander Skarsgård also play important roles. It is now streaming on Netflix. Here's our review.
Why does this story matter?
The film mostly features a Black cast, which became a problem with allocating funding. Here's context: Benedict Cumberbatch was interested in playing a small character in Passing and that had the investors interested. As soon as Doctor Strange couldn't manage time, some financiers lost confidence in the movie; although stars like Thompson and Negga were in the driver's seat. We're glad they pulled through.
Irene stumbles upon Claire, friend who is passing as white
Based on the 1929 novel by Nella Larsen, Passing follows Irene (Thompson), a Black woman, who unexpectedly comes across a school friend Claire (Negga), and sees she is passing as a white person. Not only this, Claire is married to a racist white man and has a daughter. While Irene feels revolting, Claire desperately misses "being Black" and tries to regain Irene's friendship.
Soon, Claire wins over everyone in Irene's circle
Initially, Irene ignores Claire's attempts at drawing close but then gives in. Hall doesn't give us any definite answer but their tense moments might point toward weakness in Irene for the other. Charming, verbose, and energetic Claire soon wins over everyone in Irene's circle--her husband, kids, friends. Call it jealousy, inferiority complex, or something else, Irene starts feeling her childhood friend is replacing her.
Hall leaves many things up for interpretation but that's fulfilling
Hall uses calming jazz music to instill annoyance onscreen, as Irene starts doubting if her husband is attracted to Claire. The movie has been shot in a 4:3 aspect ratio throughout, still toward the end, the screen feels tighter somehow. All this suffocation comes loose in the final scene. Many things, including the ending, are ambiguous, leaving you with many thoughts. Passing gets 4/5.