Marvelous Tessa Thompson plays Irene Redfield, an upper-class 1920s woman who takes refuge in the tea room at the Drayton Hotel in New York City. She walks by, pretending to be white to get to a place where black people weren’t allowed at the time, and that’s where she meets Clare Kendry (Ruth Negga), a former high school classmate. who does the same. However, Clare doesn’t just drop by for the day, she does so in every aspect of her life, including her marriage to a grotesquely racist man played by Alexander Skarsgard, the King of Sketchy Husbands. Irene returns home to Harlem with her two children and husband Brian (Andre Holland), but Clare finds her way on this side of the color line, going to parties with the Redfields. This leads to a subtle and nuanced examination of racial boundaries and definitions, amplified by questions of sexuality that would have been equally daring at the time of publication of this book.
Hall takes a very lyrical and poetic approach to his storytelling, framing his characters in a 4: 3 aspect ratio and filming in luscious black and white with long silences. She often places boxes within boxes, pulling people through doors that further narrow the tight frame. Everything is so carefully considered, from the detailed costume work to the haunting piano score, that it can seem a bit cold in terms of character. Fortunately, Thompson and Negga make up for this, finding emotional registers that help tell the play. Thompson can do it all as an actress, finding ways to reflect multiple layers of Irene’s inner monologue on her expressive face. While looking like she could easily have been a major silent movie star, the captivating Negga matches Thompson in her own register, subtly expressing how her reunion with someone from another life has reshaped her foundation. .
“Passing” is the kind of intricate movie making I wish I could discuss at bars and parties in Park City this year. It’s a movie that grows when you spin it around your brain, and I imagine it will produce some of the best writing of 2021, both pro and con. We need more of these films. (Editor Note: Chaz Ebert, editor of this site, is an executive producer of this film but had no impact on this review.)
There was a bit of a tonal boost for this viewer going from Harlem in the 1920s to Sean Ellis ‘French countryside horror film’ “Eight for the money”, but it can sometimes be the fun of the film festival experience. Fans of Monster movies should take into account that there is a horrific and ambitious film on the way, one that runs a bit too long and might want to go back and tweak some of its visuals, but still an impressive one. flawless horror thrill adventure.