Rebecca Hall’s directorial debut takes us to 1920’s New York City, where Irene (Tessa Thompson) finds her world impacted when she crosses paths with an old childhood friend (Ruth Negga), who is passing as white.
Based on Nells Larsen’s 1929 novel, Passing is a thought-provoking piece, handling the challenging conversation of racial identity with delicate care. Despite the decision to not delve too deeply into its complex themes, the film avoids any cliches, packing each scene with quiet tension and haunting undertones. It is patient yet so fascinating to watch this story unfold.
And although this results in a slower pace than what we are used to, the captivating and detailed performances by Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga will keep you entranced.
The two are on their A-game with undeniable chemistry. Each nuanced performance is so tremendous and intelligent — and the two don’t even need to utter a word to share their inner turmoil.
The other star of Passing is the filming. Shot in stunning black and white, the cinematography is breathtaking. It is almost like watching a period painting of Harlem come to life — and when you add the smooth jazz and sensitives sound design, you truly have an artistic piece that can transport you back in time.
Although this film will not be as loud as others this awards season, I am very impressed by Hall’s directorial debut and her ability to create such an intimate yet powerful adaptation.
Final Thoughts: With thematic care, strong performances, and a captivating visual aesthetic, Passing is not a drama to pass up.