Review By Linda Marric
Adapted by John Donnelly from his critically acclaimed play, and directed by Ben A Williams, The Pass is first and foremost a Russell Tovey vehicle. For those unfamiliar with the play, the film tells the story of a closeted football player Jason (Tovey), in an episodic narrative which spans 10 years of his life. The story takes place mostly inside and is told in a three acts structure separated by five years in between each act. Bar the last act, the film is mostly a two hander.
In act one we meet Jason for the very first time as a cocky happy-go-lucky young man fuelled by risqué and borderline-racist football banter. Jason shares a hotel room with his team mate and direct rival, handsome all-round good Christian boy Ade (Arinze Kene). The twosome are seen ribbing each other about their standing in the club and who is likely to come out on top, the gentle teasing soon turns into aggressive mocking- then a kiss between the two changes everything.
From there on we meet Jason again twice; both times in fairly similar circumstances and each time in different hotel rooms. In the second act, the cocky front is starting to show some serious cracks. In this two hander, he is joined by Lisa McGrills playing Lindsey, a tabloid “kiss and tell” wannabe. McGrills’s stunning performance manages to eclipse even Tovey’s over the top bad boy antics and adds a certain air of danger and claustrophobia to the proceedings. By the he third act the film reaches moments of pure brilliance – Tovey is at times dangerous and angry and at others vulnerable and genuinely touching.
Donnelly can be commended for knowing his football vernacular better than most, which adds a real authenticity to the narrative; he understands the psychology of the players and is therefore able to make the characters easily believable without falling into a cliché ridden narrative. Donnelly also stays away from the usual tropes associated with “boy meets closed boy” storylines.
Although dealing with worthy issues like homophobia and self-denial, The Pass essentially knows its audience better than most. The script does not shy away from providing some needed comic relief and erotic artifice. Its protagonists are often seen needlessly topless, coming out showers or getting dressed. Donnelly can certainly not be accused of making a preachy film without delivering some moments of pure visual pleasure. Further praise must go to former Hollyoaks actor Nico Mirallegro who provides an astonishingly electric performance of a “handsome but dim” hotel porter in the third act.
On the whole, The Pass is a curious little production which would have looked more at home a decade ago. Its aesthetics owe more to the theatre than to film, which is in no way a criticism,. However as stated before, this is a film that knows its LGBT audience well and is only too happy to provide what is needed from it.
The Pass is out in cinemas right now.