Originally written as a stageplay, ‘The Pass‘ tells us the story of a footballer’s struggling sexual identity in three different hotel suites, spanning a decade. Russell Tovey is Jason, who upon first meeting has a laddish need to engage in ‘banter’ and play-wrestling with fellow player Ade (Arinze Kene). As the first scene plays out, it is clear that one of the pair is going to make the professional team, leaving the other one behind. It also becomes increasingly evident that their play-wrestling and physicality will become something more.
First time director Ben Williams works well with a three act text. Though you can tell it was written for the theatre, it is transferred to screen neatly, the cinematography really capturing each hotel room. Each establishing shot reveals something about the status of the characters, their wealth and indulgences, and their outlook.
Power is also important. The dialogue tells us how vital the possession of the ball is in football. The pass of the title is used as a metaphor for how Jason holds power over the other characters, yet still struggles to really know himself. Though we never see a pitch nor a changing room, we can still empathise with the characters and start to understand what the other situations must be like.
It has been noted that this is one of the first films to address sexuality in premier league football. The narrative uses ideas surrounding fame and class to implement a kind of internalised homophobia in the lead, Jason. Russell Tovey‘s performance is complex – he uses his physicality to display Jason’s unease, and then in turn his desire. The picture is choreographed well. The performer’s movements are intricate and full of fine detail. The editing is sometimes fast paced, to pick up this erratic movement where a wide angle would otherwise fail.
The other performances from Arinze Kene, and also the supporting cast Lisa McGrillis and Nico Mirallegro, are naturalistic and believable. Since Jason’s narrative arc is so jarred and temperamental, the reactions and behaviours of the other characters have to fit around this. Coupled with well-written dialogue the exchanges between the characters are emotive and seem genuine.
In other hands, this feature might’ve been a television feature, or mini-series. However, in light of the of stellar script and performances, and the way in which the camera captures the narrative, it works well on the big screen.
[rating=4] | Zach Roddis
Drama | UK, 2016 | 15 | 9th December 2016 (UK) | Lionsgate Films | Dir.Ben A.Williams | Russell Tovey, Arinzé Kene, Lisa McGrillis, Nico Mirallegro, Rory J. Saper