Fantastic Fest

FF2015: ‘The Passing’ – movie review

The Passing starts off as a slow-burn thriller, but that classification gives way after 60 minutes have gone by, leaving the viewer thinking, “shit, is this really all there is?”

Yeah — that’s pretty much all there is to The Passing. The film has some interesting points it attempts to make about troubled family relationships, but never gets around to fully telling those stories. And I tried to make excuses for this film because, hey, I’m just as much of a fan of quiet horror movies that build to a climax as the next moviegoer. Most audiences don’t need gore to stay entertained, or require a deeply unsettling cinematic atmosphere to pull them along while waiting for a film’s “reveal.” But they do need characters who are interesting…

The Passing is modest in its scope. It follows the happenings between three people on a small Welsh farm. Stanley owns a homestead where he leads a monotonous life. He trudges through each day in the same manner. One day, he allows himself to be pulled out of his fortress of solitude when he hears a blaring car horn. Stanley ventures into the woods and finds a car submerged in a river. The couple in the crash, Sara and Iwan, appear to have just been out on a drive when their fate changed from favorable to poor, but as we all know, no one who appears on screen in movies is ever just “as they seem.” After Stanley recovers Sara from the car, he takes the couple back to his homestead (with no phone or working car) to nurse them back to health (and allow Iwan to work on his busted car).

Sara and Iwan manage to remain as mysterious as Stanley throughout the first part of the film. Everyone keeps tight lipped about who they are and where they came from. We get dribs and drabs of what the couple is all about. A “we can’t go back there” here and a “we could just start over on this farm, it has all we need” there. And I suppose that’s to show the audience that Iwan and Sara are in desperate need of change. Perhaps that’s why the couple is so willing to put aside their host’s strange demeanor. (I don’t know about you, but when a man I barely know gives me his mother’s necklace, I tend to say no and run for the hills. But Sara and Iwan? Not so much.)

After the three characters begin to get to know each other, we start to see some cracks in Iwan and Sara’s relationship. Iwan is incredibly jealous of Sara’s innocent interactions with Stanley. And although Stanley does give off a creepy vibe by spying on the couple at inappropriate times (and he goes through their things), he’s basically harmless.

The tension between the couple leads the audience to wonder how any woman in her right mind would put up with this much of her partner’s immature bullshit. But there’s an undercurrent to their relationship that leaves the watcher wondering if the couple is playing some elaborate sexual game.

The film’s story holds steady while Sara and Iwan’s relationship becomes more rocky because of her growing interest in Stanley’s back-story (and her increasing number of crash flashbacks during sex), but the plot never goes anywhere. It just focuses on the unraveling of unhealthy relationships until the film’s conclusion, which literally comes out of nowhere, and then, abruptly ends. While the last five minutes of this film are dedicated to explaining what could be construed as a supernatural back-story, it’s fueled by an all-too-common human drama that’s played out to be shocking when in reality, it should be depicted as sad.

Admittedly, I was not a fan of this film. (Could you tell?) I was too hung up with how Sara was treated throughout the movie. The character is basically a victim who has no “say” about anything. I also was annoyed that the story only seemed to be propelled when Sara was put in harm’s way. Throughout the movie, the two men call all the shots, leaving Sara to emote and fend for herself. It’s this cruel pressure that forces Sara to “come into her own” in a strange, not well explained, way.

But… If a viewer can but this problematic character’s storyline aside, some could find some enjoyment out of watching this film. The Passing’s atmosphere is beautiful and helps sell the film’s story of sadness, loss, and being alone.

2/5

THE PASSING is directed by Gareth Bryn and stars Mark Lewis Jones, Dyfan Dwyfor and Annes Elwy.

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