Passing: Rebecca Hall’s Racial (and Interracial) Drama, Starring Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga (Sundance 2021)

Passing: Sundance 2021

Courtesy of Eduard Grau

From left: Ruth Negga and Tessa Thompson in ‘Passing’

Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga play Black women in 1920s New York, navigating the “color line” from opposite sides in Rebecca Hall’s adaptation of the Harlem Renaissance novel.

Exquisite performances from Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga provide the pulsing, emotionally heightened center to Passing, Rebecca Hall’s assured move behind the camera, adapted with great sensitivity from the 1929 novel by Harlem Renaissance author Nella Larsen.

“We’re all of us passing for something or other, aren’t we?” muses Thompson’s melancholy character Irene Redfield. This is a dreamily atmospheric evocation of 1920s New York, its bursts of Jazz Age exuberance offset by the contained threat of people being unmasked. It tells an intimate story of two women on either side of the “color line” while undertaking an intersectional exploration of identity in relation to race, gender, class and sexuality.