BFI Flare 2016: The Pass

B F I  F L A R E
L o n d o n  L G B T  F i l m  F e s t i v a l  2 0 1 6

"Ben A Williams’ feature debut is a brilliantly executed adaptation of John Donnelly’s acclaimed Royal Court production, detailing the journey of two young footballers over the course of a decade. The film opens with them holed up in a hotel room in Bulgaria the night before a big match and there’s tension in the air. These highly-trained, physical young men are best mates and rivals, playing out their insecurities through savagely hilarious verbal exchanges and sexually-charged hi-jinks. Money, sex and winning a place on the squad are their obsessions, but the laddish rhythms of their quick fire dialogue are interrupted by an unexpectedly intimate moment. The ‘pass’ of the title refers both to the games played on the pitch and off, the repercussions of which drive the film’s riveting narrative..." BFI Flare

Tonight's screening of director Ben A Williams' The Pass was also the world premiere, and leading men Russell Tovey and Arinze Kene were both out on the red carpet at Leicester Square's Odeon, looking as gorgeous in the flesh as they do on screen. Sadly, they were also fully clothed. Let's get this out of the way: Arinze Kene has a spectacular physique, with probably the most impressive chest this side of Atlanta. Nevertheless, Kene's attractions won't be enough to entice some black gay viewers, who will swerve the movie, perceiving it to be an interracial romance. That's a shame - and their loss - because The Pass is an intense, claustrophobic picture, with a rewarding payoff.

Adapted from the stage play of the same name, the film adheres closely to a three act structure; essentially it's a two-hander between Kene and Tovey, confined to three different hotel rooms. There's no stadia, no locker rooms. That's a good thing because Kene and Tovey's knockout performances deserve maximum screen time.

Both actors are inspirational: Tovey - whose background is working class Essex - is a welcome contrast to the entitled Eton toffs who have largely taken over the UK arts scene - the likes of Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hiddleston. Kene, an accomplished playwright whose work focuses on creating new narratives for black people, is inspired by the writing of Langston Hughes. Langston Hughes!

But back to The Pass. It just doesn't put a foot wrong, and ends on a poignant masterstroke that left me trying to compose myself before the lights came up. It's agony, but beautiful agony.

Every year, KAOS reports from the annual BFI Flare: London LGBT Film Festival. This year, I'll be reviewing twelve films (including a few programmes of shorts). Next time: Sex, Love and Other Stories.


Fit Studs said...

Russell Tovey is a pass, IMO, indeed. :D

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