Directed by Ben A Williams, and written by John Donnelly, The Pass may not appeal to a wide audience but that didn’t stop the feature from getting outstanding critical praise after airing at BFI London Film Festival and receiving BAFTA nominations. Watching the opening sequence it’s hard to see how as phallocentric chauvinists Jason and Ade (played by Russell Tovey and Ariné Kene respectively) carouse around in their hotel room in absurdly tight boxers. It ticks every cliché in the book as you wait for them to start whipping each other with towels for ‘a bit of banter’ before their hyper-masculinity transcends into fairly obvious sexual tension as they exist as self-indulgent, young footballers worrying they won’t make the cut for the team. This staging becomes a little tedious with all the sophistication of an episode of The Only Way is Essex.
We then witness a cinematographic representation of nails on a chalkboard as you watch Tovey five years on from the frivolity, utterly miserable in the company of a desperate lap dancer played by Lisa McGrillis as he defends his sexuality in a testosterone-fuelled show of denial and misery as she berates him for his sexuality.
Another five years on, the homoerotic pair are reunited with a thorough lack of context. The transition between half decades decreases the depth of the characters, despite Tovey’s rather convincing and, at times bone-chilling performance when his sexuality is in question, he provides an insightful view into the struggles against the repression of identity and how quickly it can transgress from innocence to loneliness.
The Pass serves as an accurate, agonisingly real portrayal of the difficulty of not only accepting the nature of your unexplored, oppressed sexuality but expressing feelings of sexual desire to the person you begrudgingly harness feelings for with the added hurdle of being a professional footballer.
As a concept The Pass does work but as a piece of film it’s severely void of any mention-able mise en scené and concludes with a bitter quibble about position that only football fans could enjoy. We then endure a painfully staged conversation about their sexual encounter ten years previous, before their reunion is interrupted by corruptible super-fan bellboy played by Nico Mirallegro. He’s only too happy to play along with their homoerotic fun and games much to Ade’s displeasure. As the debauchery ensues, the tension is palpable & sure enough, the bell boy is cast aside with the indispensability which footballers treat their fans/sexual counterparts with.
As a gay woman, I’m all for LGBT cinema and the exploration of sexuality & gender but given the choice, I would definitely give this one a pass…