Passing review: Ruth Negga may well get another Oscar nomination

Posted in Articles, Arts, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2021-10-30 01:34Z by Steven

Passing review: Ruth Negga may well get another Oscar nomination

The Irish Times

Donald Clarke, Chief Film Correspondent

Ruth Negga and Tessa Thompson in Passing

Film Title: Passing
Director: Rebecca Hall
Starring: Tessa Thompson, Ruth Negga, André Holland, Bill Camp, Gbenga Akinnagbe, Antoinette Crowe-Legacy, Alexander Skarsgård
Genre: Drama
Running Time: 98 min

This delicately observed portrait of racial dynamics is worth seeing in the cinema

If you sat down unsure whether you were being taken to another time, the gauzy monochrome and 4:3 aspect ratio would go some way to alleviating any doubt. Rebecca Hall’s take on a key African-American novel shrugs off its modest budget to offer a convincingly transportive vision of Harlem in the 1920s. Marci Rodgers’s costumes capture the prohibition lines without resorting to catwalky inverted-commas. The piano-heavy score from Devonté Hynes leans ever-so-gently on the bridge between ragtime and less jaunty sounds to come.

There is, of course, no reason to set Passing at any other time. Nella Larsen’s book is hardly buried in ancient obscurity. But it is still worth pointing towards the calendar. Any contemporary study of a black woman “passing” for white would move out under very different winds. When largely sympathetic characters here twig that Clare (Ruth Negga), a Chicagoan now married to an unsuspecting white jerk (Alexander Skarsgård), has taken on a Caucasian identity, there is variously surprise, irritation, curiosity, but little sense of shock and nothing you would call outrage. That last emotion is left for the racists. Passing is no longer such an everyday business as it once was (which is not to suggest it doesn’t happen). Any film dealing with such a story in the 21st century would necessarily play at a higher temperature. Hall’s decision to cut a late, explosive use of the N-word in the journey from novel to screenplay – though another remains – confirms how the dynamics have altered…

Read the entire review here.

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