‘The Pass,’ directed by Ben A. Williams, was adapted for the screen by John Donelly, from his hit p lay at Royal Court. While I did not see the production, I have read that his adaptation is pretty faithful to his original work. The resulting movie is a little claustrophobic, to be honest, and its wideness doesn’t help it – at times the action left me a little bored, and a lot of the British slang went over my head. But make no mistake, this is a great and important piece of film, and it is anchored by two fine performances – Russell Tovey (Jason) and Arinze Kene (Ade)
The film is broken in three portions, all five years apart: the first third is set in 2006 in a hotel room in Bucharest – both Jason and Ade are holed up before a game in the morning, and clad only in their underwear, verbally spars with each other. But all sense that there is more as the tension – sexual above all – is insurmountable, and you just know it will have to combust at some point. And it does. The film moves to five years later as Jason gets embroiled in a sex video scandal with a stripper, in his elaborate plan to beard in order to hide his sexual orientation. The last third is set in another hotel room, as he and Ade face each other again after ten years.
I loved the last part most of all, as it turns very emotional and both characters have to deal with their emotions – unrequited, unexpressed, unfiltered. Tovey is a marvel here – giving a richly textured performance of a man who has to hide behind a machismo persona. But I think what makes his performance work is because he has to react to kene’s subtlety – his glance here, his look there sometimes says more than the long dialogues, which sound stage-y a lot of times. I found myself thinking about these characters a lot, and what would happen to both. This film has some limitations, but overall it will touch you.