The Pass is a dramatic tour de force. Its simple conceit – a triptych of pairs of people talking in hotel rooms at five-year intervals – is masterfully executed thanks to clever ellipsis, cast chemistry, and high-energy performances.
Such a premise could easily have become “radio with pictures”, yet Ben A. Williams needs nothing more than John Donnelly’s racing script, full of electric exchanges vibrantly delivered, and physical performances in order to maintain engagement. Russell Tovey and Arinzé Kene play off each other especially well in the opening segment, with the dynamic constantly flipping between friendly banter, cruel ribbing, and an undercurrent of homoeroticism which gradually tips from raucous laddish play to something more tender. Tovey occasionally leans toward overacting, but as we get to know his character Jason and understand his bravado and posturing it becomes less jarring.
All of the actors are able to convey the vulnerability hidden beneath their characters’ face-saving pretences. Tovey gives a towering and terrifying performance as a man in denial for so long, with a mask so firmly fixed, that he can’t always tell truth from the appearance he’s cultivated.
Despite this gravitas, The Pass is a joy to watch. Pop culture references are fine-tuned for the three eras in which the film takes place, but music is overused and often overloud. The final act’s Riot Club-esque antics are a little silly and don’t add anything to our understanding of Jason or Ade, yet Williams and Donnelly finish strong with touching and wistful revelation.
The Pass is an unshowy union of great writing, casting, and acting. It manages both a detailed and emotive portrait of the changeable bond between two men as teammates and potential lovers, and, despite the tiny cast, paints a compelling picture of group dynamics within the football club.
CAST: Russell Tovey, Arinzé Kene, Lisa McGrillis, Nico Mirallegro
DIRECTOR: Ben A. Williams
WRITER: John Donnelly
SYNOPSIS: 19 year-old Jason and Ade have been in the Academy of a famous London football club since they were eight years old. Events which take place on the night before their first-ever game for the first team reverberate through the next 10 years of their lives.