Passing by Rebecca Hall [5/10]

Passing” is an ambitious arthouse story based on African Americans pretending to be white, a concept used with wonderful effect in Brit Bennett’s impressive novel The Vanishing Half. There is much to admire here: a clever setup with two light-skinned blacks in 1920s New York, one having pretended to be white before marrying an arrogant racist, the other a hardworking, cautious soul; the black-and-white cinematography, alternately fuzzy and sharp; a tinkling piano soundtrack; sparkling jazz club scenes; and an ambiguously unfolding plot that teases the viewer. All the issues of racism, including induced shame, stand out clearly, and Passing should have been a profound, stylish revelation. Instead, I found myself unattached to both the main characters, both of them, dare I say it, miscast and too studious in execution. Over the course of the viewing, I paid heed, I pondered, but I disassociated. Character identification can be like music appreciation, different from one listener to another, so feel free to ignore my impressions and partake of this intriguing film.

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