“You gotta take your chances when you can because life ain’t fair. And when it comes down to it, I don’t have room for emotions.”
Ambitious can often be a dirty word in film. It comes with the preconception that it will be preceded by ‘overly’ or proceeded ‘but flawed’. This is not the case with The Pass. What Ben A.Williams has created with his directorial debut is nothing short of incredible. The entire film is haunted by a tragicomedy atmosphere that scarcely relents, ensnaring the viewer from the opening moment and holding you in its grasp until the final wrenching moments. Using the three act structure it obtained from its theatre origins the more stagey elements only enhance the captivating drama. We visit three hotel rooms over the course of ten years – we do not see outside these rooms or outside these days. We do not need to. We see and learn enough to truly care about the players involved.
Tovey delivers what is unquestionably a career-best performance as Jason, a footballer desperately battling his homosexuality. At times excruciatingly raw yet never too much, intense yet subtlety nuanced. Williams creates a truly claustrophobic space for Jason to rise and then diminish as his internal battles start to become more and more external. Within each of the three acts we see a Tovey as Jason who is both different yet ultimately the same – a man whose innate competitiveness may come at the cost of happiness.
The first act is the film at it’s most joyous – when we first meet Jason and his fellow academy player Ade (Kene). It’s the night before a big game that could, and will, change everything. It will lead their paths to diverge massively, yet that is something they could of course not know. For that single night they can savour being on the gusp of something, that sweet sense that everything is possible and soon you will be facing your destiny. The rapport between Tovey and Kene is pitch-perfect in every way. The beats and the bants are unbelievably believable; their naturalistic locker room chat revealing so much on such a precarious night. An incident occurs yet is not immediately revealed to us dear viewers, instead it is neatly and carefully revealed throughout the narrative.
This effect could only be achieved with a blistering script which is perhaps the only way to describe John Donnelly‘s writing. The Pass is thoughtfully written, tight and controlled with nothing wasted. The end result is a truly refreshing film, the kind we do not see enough of and therefore, perhaps, appreciate all the more. Intense and insightful. Utterly brilliant.
Review written after attending a Den Of Geek preview screening and Q&A with Ben A.Williams at the Courthouse Hotel on December 8th. Released in UK cinemas on December 9th.
Dir: Ben A. Williams
Year: 2016 Run time:88 minutes