Directed by Ben A Williams and adapted from the play by John Donnelly, The Pass tackles homophobia within a very macho UK football culture. At once homophobic and homoerotic, British football is a bastion of tradition in which closeted players remain so for fear of losing their highly coveted careers.
Electrifying yet sad, erotically charged yet romantic and in three acts across three hotel rooms, this film chronicles the lives of footballers Jason (Russell Tovey) and Ade (Arinzé Kene) who have known each other since childhood. The story begins in 2006 in a Romanian hotel; the two are 19-year-olds, frolicking about very provocatively in their underwear, joking lasciviously about women and arguing about the game and who should have done what. With all the typical homoerotic athletic play that goes on in football locker rooms, theirs is something more. The attraction between them is palpable and inevitably, for one brief moment they succumb, then brush it off and don’t speak about it for years to come.
Throughout the next ten years Jason becomes a sports superstar, while Ade lives a normal life, has come out as gay and cohabits with his lover. Jason’s celebrity status has forced him to go to great lengths to deny his sexual orientation, such as engaging a stripper (Lisa McGrillis) to videotape them having sex.
When Jason and Ade meet again, it is clear they have an emotional bond, sadly long repressed because of homophobia. Jason’s star status has turned him into a callous egomaniac, yet he reveals beneath his veneer a poignant vulnerability as in tears he admits to Ade “you’re the last thing I remember of any value”.
Williams’s directing is commendable in his minimalist but brilliant choices which allow full focus on Jason’s persona and his relationship with Ade. Quite similar to the theatrical version in that it has only three scenes, the movie economically avoids detail to focus on characterisation. Tovey is charismatic and remarkable as Jason, deftly and movingly expressing a variety of emotions, and the talented Kene is engagingly transcendent as Ade.
This piece deals with homophobia and the foibles of fame, asking the questions “is it worth sacrificing your sexual identity to have it? Does celebrity and wealth provide only false happiness?” Stylish, glitzy and erotic, the true message of The Pass is romantic – that love is the only thing in life that truly matters.
The Pass is released nationwide on 9th December 2016.
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