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Actress Rebecca Hall makes a competent directorial debut with a 2021 Netflix drama called Passing, a dry and slightly pretentious look at racial tension on a fresh canvas, from an unusual source, but the performances are impeccable.

Hall also wrote the screenplay for this drama that takes place during the roaring 20's, focusing on the reunion between two female, light-skinned black women. Irene is married with two kids and lives in Harlem. Clare lives in Manhattan with her white husband and son. We also learn that not only is Clare married to a white man, but that she is passing...she is pretending to be white, even though her husband is a card-carrying bigot who comes right out and says he hates Negroes (though that's not the word he uses).

Looking at this film as nothing more than a piece of filmmaking, there is a lot to admire here...Hall's cinematic eye is undeniably sharp, creating striking cinematic images that stay with the viewer, made even more impressive by the stunning, Oscar-worthy, black and white cinematography, aiding in the visual feast this film is, but still found myself curiously unmoved by Hall's story, which just might not have been a good fit for her.

Race relations in the roaring 20's were in an odd place...slavery was over, but the "N" word was prominent and black people were still being lynched. To mount a story involving someone passing, might have been something a little above Hall's pay grade. I never bought Clare looking light enough to pass and Irene was not light enough to be mistaken for white, which took all the legitimacy out of the story. The first time Clare's husband meets Irene, I didn't buy that that he didn't know Irene was black and didn't throw her out of his house.
And then we're supposed to buy Clare being attracted to Irene's husband? There's a whole lot of dramatic license required by the viewer to really make this fly.

Hall is to be commended for her ambition here, but it slightly overwhelms her skill in presenting a story that maybe should have been left to another writer/director. She knows how to work with actors though. Tessa Thompson (Creed)is poised and eloquent as Irene and Oscar nominee Ruth Negga (Loving) makes an enchanting and tragic Clare. The ladies receive solid support from Andre Holland, who played adult Kevin in 2016's Best Picture Moonlight as Irene's husband and the always reliable alexander Skarsgaard as Clare's husband. Hall gets an "A" for effort though.