A Double Feature Review, B&W Edition!
Passing is a beautiful directorial debut from Rebecca Hall. The black-and-white images are striking, while the story and themes are delicately wrapped. There's an elegance to Hall's picture. Plus, actors Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga are both magnificent throughout. Actor, writer, and now director Rebecca Hall showcases a strong directorial debut with Passing. Hall's debut feature is based on author Nella Larsen’s 1929 novel of the same name. Hall moves the location of the story from Chicago to New York but keeps every other element of Larsen’s extraordinary story. Both Thompson and Negga's acting in this film are rich, drawing the viewer in slowly. The title, Passing, refers to Black or mixed-race people "passing" as white as a way to survive in this country. The United States is a country deeply rooted in racism and white supremacy and, sadly, still is to this day. Hall superbly tackles these thorny themes with delicacy and awareness.
By shooting her picture literally in black-and-white allowed the story to blossom through detailed imagery and poignant symbolism. Our story follows Irene (Thompson), a light-skinned Black woman living in Harlem, who meets a childhood friend, Clare (Negga), by chance at a New York City hotel. The Ethiopian-Irish actress (Negga) is just as radiant as she was in her 2016 performance of Loving. Here, Irene identifies as African-American and is married to a Black doctor (André Holland), but Clare "passes" as white and has married a wealthy white man (Alexander Skarsgård) from Chicago. This discovery turns Irene's world upside down. Negga and Thompson are both stellar scene after scene. I hope they get a lot of recognition this awards season and maybe even Oscar noms. Hall's engrossing film highlights how the United States is still a country deeply control by whiteness, even to this very day. It's a picture that is captures of horrors of real-life experiences and has a lot to say. In the end, Passing is a movie that cuts you deep.
Passing is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned) Thematic Material | Some Racial Slurs | Smoking.
Stream it now on Netflix
Directed by Rebecca Hall
Starring Tessa Thompson, Ruth Negga, André Holland, Bill Camp, Gbenga Akinnagbe, Antoinette Crowe-Legacy, and Alexander Skarsgård.
Belfast is simply marvelous. I was completely captivated from beginning to end. Director Kenneth Branagh's (Much Ado About Nothing, Hamlet, Thor, and 2015's Cinderella) black-and-white crowd-pleaser will tug away at your heartstrings. A movie that screams Oscars, and if this wins Best Picture next year, I would be okay with that. What a wonder. Belfast is a superb movie about childhood, family, and community. Branagh's film is well-crafted and delicately wrapped with love and care. Branagh's picture works as a semi-autobiographical story of a working-class family trying to survive during The Troubles in Belfast, Northern Ireland, from August 1969 to early 1970. Mostly, we are shown the perspective of Buddy (newcomer Jude Hill), the family's youngest son. Belfast is a love letter to the city and the people of Belfast, Northern Ireland. This is a picture that will make you both laugh and cry multiple times throughout the movie. Branagh's feature tells a complex story deeply rooted in political and social turmoil. Belfast is also a feature that is rich in texture, layering the story's impact like a gut punch. Belfast is a beauty scene after scene. Actors Caitríona Balfe and Jamie Dornan as Buddy's Ma and Pa are both terrific throughout.
Balfe gives a powerful performance; while Dornan continues to work his acting chops. Dornan's scene where he sings Everlasting Love by Love Affair will fill your heart with eternal joy. After last Spring's Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar and, now Belfast, Dornan has won me over. He is magnificent. Actors Judi Dench and Ciarán Hinds warm the screen as Buddy's grandparents. There were a few scenes that left me in awe. These scenes were when Buddy attended a local stage play or saw a movie at the theater. Here, Branagh used color in only what was playing on the stage play or on the movie screen. Everything else, like Buddy and his family, was still in black-and-white. There was something spectacular about these sequences, as Branagh blended both color and black-and-white. You will be in awe; while humming to the tune of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968) — the movie Buddy and his family are watching. Belfast will most likely be a favorite this awards season. Right now, I am okay with that because this is a wonderful little movie. You will laugh, cheer, and be inspired. Belfast is a reason why cinema is so captivating. In the end, the theater is where I go to escape.
Belfast is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned) Strong Language | Some Violence.
Directed by Kenneth Branagh
Starring, Caitríona Balfe, Judi Dench, Jamie Dornan, Ciarán Hinds, Colin Morgan, and Jude Hill.
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