Passing review – Rebecca Hall’s stylish and subtle study of racial identity

Passing review – Rebecca Hall’s stylish and subtle study of racial identity
Hall’s directing debut stars Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga as friends who are both ‘passing’ for what they are not in an adaptation of Nella Larsen’s 1929 novel

Rebecca Hall makes her directing debut with this intimately disturbing movie, adapted by her from the 1929 novel by Nella Larsen. Irene (Tessa Thompson) and Clare (Ruth Negga) are two women of colour, former school friends who run into each other by chance in an upscale Manhattan hotel in prohibition-era America. They are both light-skinned, but Irene is stunned to realise that her vivacious and now peroxide blonde friend Clare is “passing” for white these days, and that her odious, wealthy white husband John (Alexander Skarsgård) has no idea. As for sober and respectable Irene, she lives with her black doctor husband Brian (André Holland) in Harlem with their two sons and a black maid that she treats a little high-handedly.

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