Adapted from John Donnelley’s successful play, The Pass is a gripping and profound piece of cinema, with two remarkable central performances from Russell Tovey and Arinzé Kene. They play Jason and Ade, two childhood friends at the cusp of their football careers, who the audience meet in a hotel in Romania the night before a big match. Slowly, their boisterous play-fighting becomes more and more erotically charged until they share a tense, life-changing kiss. Jason goes on to make it big, Ade doesn’t, and The Pass lays out how the still serious taboo surrounding homosexuality in professional football eats away at Jason as he trades fame, money and success for being able to love another man.
The film is set entirely in hotel rooms and is told in three distinct acts, betraying the fact that it’s adapted from the stage, and lending the picture its compelling sense of claustrophobia. Tovey and Kene both give stunning performances, and Kene is particularly impressive in the scenes where Jason slips into ignorant racism, and Ade must react to him putting on black face as a joke and mocking his father’s accent. Indeed, The Pass is not just about the homosexuality taboo in football, it also highlights the culture of casual racism and sexism in the beautiful game, which permeates the conversation between the two young men at the start of the movie. Although these themes are not given centre stage, by the end of the film we see that Ade, years older and far removed from the toxicity of Jason’s life, has lost his will to tolerate his casual racism.
The way director Ben Williams handles so many topics in 90 minutes is something to be admired, as it rarely feels as though too much is being dealt with in one go. At times, the theatrical three-act structure strikes as a little unnatural for cinema, but without it the complex web of themes could well have become unmanageable.
In a time when many believe homosexuality a taboo of the past, The Pass makes an important statement about how discrimination still pervades certain areas of society where manliness, that much-lauded quality, and being gay are mutually exclusive. For both football fans and the general public, this deep and moving film will provoke a much-needed conversation.
The Pass is released in selected cinemas on 9th December 2016.
Watch the trailer for The Pass here: