Tagline: Nothing is black and white.
Director: Rebecca Hall
Cast: Tessa Thompson, Ruth Negga, André Holland, Alexander Skarsgård, Bill Camp, Gbenga Akinnagbe, Antoinette Crowe-Legacy, Justus Davis Graham, Ethan Barrett, Ashley Ware Jenkins, Amos J. Machanic, Stu S. Becker, Tom White, Margaret Daly, Kerry Flanagan, Buzz Roddy, Derek Roberts, Amber Barbee Pickens, Samuel Coleman, Tatiana Marie Barber, Carmen Carriker, Leroy Church, Brian Davis, Zuri Foreman, Abeni Jewel, Malik Kitchen, Ivan Phillip Owens, Donna Hayes, Frank Holley, Shaun Hudson, Sienna Jeffries, Doris McCarthy, Rahim Rosen
Runtime: 98Plot: In 1920s New York City, a Black woman finds her world upended when her life becomes intertwined with a former childhood friend who's passing as white.
PASSING is quite possibly the quietest movie ever set in the city of New York. It's all hushed tones, wordless glances and even the music is mostly quiet early jazz. There are mysteries and confidences here, but, they best not be said too loudly - if at all. Eduard Grau shoots in digital Black & White (purposely highlighting the movie's theme) and in an old school 1:37 that emphasizes the past. There is a rush of sound near the end that startles because it is so out of character (intentionally) with the rest of the movie. Negga is quite good as the outgoing Clare who wants to desperately feel again. Bill Camp as a white intellectual who likes to soak in the Harlem atmosphere is showily effective. It is Tessa Thompson as Irene that doesn't quite work. Thompson is a reliable actress but, here she seems to overplay the notion that her character is educated and speaks with too flat a tone - as if she were consciously putting on airs. It simply doesn't sound natural, although the rest of her performance is well acted. Contributing to Thompson's hesitant performance is Hall's screenplay (adapted from Nella Larsen's novel) which has a bit of stilted feel. The words never flow. There are too many statements without nuance. The dialogue strains to keep up with the strong visual scheme which allows the secrets and lies reveal themselves in a more natural way.
PASSING has a soft dreamlike quality that makes it memorable, even if the story-telling isn't always as smooth. It's a promising debut for Hall, with reservations.