The Pass

 

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A drama that may appeal much more strongly to some than to others.

 
The Pass

Russell Tovey

 

In these days homophobia may not be dead but coming out is nevertheless less difficult than it used to be even in the sphere of sport. But it still seems to be a problem for gay footballers and that fact lies at the heart of John Donnelly's stage play The Pass which he has now adapted for the screen in a film that features three of the four leading players from the original London cast. Producer Duncan Kenworthy saw the play and was impressed while at the same time being intrigued by the fact that there were so many women in the audience. His venture in bringing the piece to the screen is clearly heartfelt and his aims, and those of Donnelly too, are admirable. It saddens me therefore that I should find the film so unsuccessful.

 

The stage set-up is retained offering us three distinct scenes, each set in a hotel bedroom and taking place at five yearly intervals. The first of these is located in Romania where two footballers, Jason (Russell Tovey) and Ade, a black man (Arinzé Kene, the newcomer to the work), are sharing a room. Both are on the verge of moving up into the big time if all goes well in the match. Convincingly these young men join in badinage and horse play with a sexual edge, but it's a major step when the macho Jason actually kisses Ade. In view of that, it's unexpected to find in the second scene that Jason is married with two children. Furthermore, in his hotel bedroom there's a young woman (Lisa McGrillis) present for sex with him. However, we soon discover that all this is camouflage and that Jason has become desperate to scotch rumours that he is gay. The third and longest section brings back Ade into his life, but there's also a fourth significant role now, that of hotel employee Harry (Nico Mirallegro).

 

The first section is the best even if the dialogue is such that words dominate in a way that goes against the grain of cinema. But to my ear things get much worse: by the second scene all of the dialogue starts to sound like the creation of a playwright, while the third part not only continues in that vein but becomes increasingly unconvincing over how the characters behave. The cast are good actors but they cannot break free of the sense of theatre that dominates (it takes a Hitchcock, as in Rope (1948), to take a play and a limited set and to turn it into pure cinema).
This is sad because the piece is so obviously well-intended but, given the extent to which relays of live theatre shows to cinemas have become so popular, it may be that I am in a minority in reacting so strongly to the sense of falsity when a work seen in a cinema smacks of the theatre. Indeed, if that is the case and I am actually in a very small minority, nothing would please me more because The Pass is a labour of love.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Russell Tovey, Arinzé Kene, Lisa McGrillis, Nico Mirallegro, Rory J. Saper.

 

Dir Ben A. Williams, Pro Duncan Kenworthy and Kurban Kassam, Screenplay John Donnelly from his stage play, Ph Chris O'Driscoll, Pro Des Peter Francis, Ed Masahiro Hirakubo and Justine Wright, Costumes Holly Smart.

 

Toledo Productions-Lionsgate UK.
88 mins. UK. 2016. Rel: 9 December 2016. Cert. 15.