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Actress Rebecca Hall’s directing debut shows great promise but is let down by a moralistic melodrama narrative that lacks authenticity.

For her directing debut actress Rebecca Hall chose to adapt a novel written over 90 years ago, about two black women who can both pass for white but make decidedly different choices in life.

The subject is timely without a doubt, and Hall definitely shows promise in her first foray behind the camera, but that doesn't make Passing a great movie. Try as she might to approach the subject with poise and subtlety, Rebecca Hall can't resist using dialogue that neatly lays out every moral conundrum, while the plot babbles towards a climax that is as predictable as it is cheaply dramatic.

I wasn't convinced either by the choice to film Passing in black and white: it might make for some artful images, but it also purposely keeps the viewer at a distance. Protagonists Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga admirably convey the inner ambiguity of their characters but they aren't helped by the melodrama of the various subplots, which dilutes the authenticity of the tale.

In short: there is a decent movie hiding somewhere in Passing. It just never comes out.

release: 2021

director: Rebecca Hall

starring: Tessa Thompson, Ruth Negga, André Holland, Bill Camp


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