VOD Review - The Pass (2018)

Released in the UK in December 2016, this movie only played at film festivals here in the USA in 2017. The Orchard finally made it available online in the United States in May of this year. It got a BAFTA nomination for Outstanding Debut. Director Ben A. Williams adapted John Donnelly's play, which was originally put on the stage in 2014 at the Royal Court in London. It starred Russell Tovey (Looking and Being Human) who reprises his role in this film. Tovey has done a lot of television over the past decade and a half. He made more of a name for himself in theater. He had prominent roles in Alan Bennett's The History Boys and Tony Kushner's Angels in America at the Royal National Theatre. He even did Broadway again more recently with A View From the Bridge.

All of which have proven him to be a tremendous actor, but it's shocking because Tovey's co-star in this movie got nominated for Best Supporting Actor at the British Independent Film Awards, yet Tovey himself got no recognition. He should have been up for Best Actor at the British Independent Film Awards. There was stiff competition that year, but I would have removed Shia LaBeouf who did get nominated for American Honey but who isn't even British. Tovey gives a way better performance than LaBeouf and he also has way more screen time, as well as a more substantial role here. The fact that Tovey was overlooked is a crime.

Tovey stars as Jason, a soccer player or what's called a footballer. At the beginning of the movie, he's 19-years-old and it's the night before he's set to play in his first-ever, professional game. With him is one of his best mates, Ade, played by Arinzé Kene, a fellow footballer of Nigerian descent. Apparently, the two grew up together since they were eight. Somehow, they ended up in the same club or on the same team, but their security on that team is not for sure. Depending on how they perform in the game will determine if they continue and have a great career or if they strike out and potentially have no career.

They're under a lot of pressure, but they're hanging out in their hotel room in Bucharest, Romania. They're both in nothing but their underwear. They jump rope. They perform other night time rituals. Ade puts on moisturizer and eats chocolate sauce. Jason plays with his video camera and shines his own shoes. They both tease each other or other teammates, talk and laugh, as well as have a few drinks and engage in horseplay.

As the two continue to hang out, the apparent homoeroticism becomes overwhelming. Two, very, muscular boys in nothing but their underpants and in Jason's case his tighty-whities who are confined in a small space, slapping each other or jumping on top of one another suggest that something is going to happen. The sexual tension between them at all times is felt and is felt very strongly. It's palpable. Yet, it becomes a clever dance of who will make the first move and whose desires will be revealed first.

The same year that Donnelly's play was on stage, Mark Bessenger's The Last Straight Man premiered. That movie was also about two guys confined to a hotel room having an extended conversation. Bessenger's film took an interesting structure. The two men meet once a year at the same hotel room. Bessenger's film borrowed from Same Time, Next Year (1978), which was also an adaptation of a stage play by Bernard Slade.

This movie has a similar structure as that Slade adaptation and Bessenger's movie where we see ten years go by, but only through select nights in hotel rooms spent by the protagonists. The difference between Bessenger's movie and this one is Bessenger shows us nearly a dozen nights in the same hotel. This movie only shows us three nights in various hotel rooms. Unlike in The Last Straight Man or Same Time, Next Year, this movie isn't about two people having an affair and keeping it secret.

It's about a man who makes a crucial decision that changes his life but also someone else's life significantly. It changes their lives personally and professionally. The movie is then about how both men deal with the aftermath of that decision and how they handle the consequences. It's also about internalized homophobia, one that might be generated by constraints of the sport. What might be frustrating is that the decision happens off screen, but the acting from both actors sell every moment and every line impeccably that it's fine that a movie about sports shows no sports. The writing has enough authenticity about football to cover it.

The movie is mostly between Jason and Ade, but it does feature minor roles by two other actors. Lisa McGrillis who plays Lyndsey and Nico Mirallegro who plays Harry are all equally authentic and funny in their own ways. They provide twists and bursts of energy that shake things up in brilliant fashion. Both of whom buttress Tovey's performance and enrich his presence in their scenes with him. He has chemistry with everyone. Whether he's being manipulative or heartfelt and genuine, his interactions are golden.

Not Rated but contains language and nudity.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 26 mins.


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