›› The Pass ‹‹

a film by Ben A. Williams.

2016 | 88 mins | UK.

the price that some are seemingly willing to pay for sporting glory.

Dave says:

Over the years I've reviewed many a gay film whose narrative revolves around coming out, or perhaps not, in the so-called beautiful game. Yet none is as poignant as this insightful three act drama directed with an abundance of TLC by Ben A. Williams.

Adapted for the screen by writer John Donnelly from his noted stage play that premiered at the Royal Court Theatre, London in 2014, this is the story of best friends Jason (Russell Tovey) and Ade (Arinzé Kene) who have been training at a professional London Football Academy since they were in their youth. Spending another night together in a hotel room, this time around in Romania, before a next day Champions League match could decide their very future in the game itself, it's little wonder that emotions between the two are running wild. Over-excited and yet equally aware that their destiny awaits them, the spirited playfulness of the camaraderie between them takes on a whole new depth when out of nowhere, one kisses the other. It's a pass that will have ramifications for both of them over the next ten years, as one is destined for success and the other for happiness.

With a spoiler warning firmly in place, this is a work that with the minimal of players cuts to the core of the pursuit for sporting glory and the price that some are seemingly willing to pay for it. To that end Tovey is outstanding in the lead role; his eye movements vividly conveying the inner soul of a man who for all of the trappings of fame and fortune, does not have happiness, nor love; this in spite of what he would have you believe. Yearning to somehow rekindle the friendship of ten years ago, and more perhaps in a reunion with Abe, he finds instead a man who has embraced his sexuality to live openly with the love of his life. And it's here that the poignancy of this perceptive drama lies, with Jason having resorted to staged sex tapes of him cheating on his wife, courtesy of his encounter with erotic dancer Lyndsey, brilliantly played by Lisa McGrillis in the second act, as the reason for his failing marriage; his hetero façade secured. Yet the truth is already out there for those in the know, including hotel employee Harry (Nico Mirallegro) who well aware of Jason's desire for man-sex, nonetheless finds himself unwittingly caught up in Jason's increasingly frantic attempts to regain the one true love of his life.

In short and without a football pitch, or even a football in sight, this compelling feature powerfully says it - like it is. It's a film whose limited sets work to its advantage, with the claustrophobic nature of the hotel room settings indicative of a life lived behind closed doors. No surprise then, that here we find Williams' going for long takes to recreate the dramatic intensity of the stage play, the dialogue ever rich in a series of home truths whose delivery alternates between tender tones to heated exchanges when the reality of the situation hits home; namely how in going for his personal goal in life, one man let go of his sole opportunity to love and to be loved, with his hetero public persona having ultimately led to a life of self-inflicted loneliness.

It's a telling tale of contrasts that's wonderfully played throughout, with Kene having had the toughest job being the sole central cast member without the experience of the stage play behind him. Yet he plays his role beautifully, allowing Tovey to shine in the spotlight, the two frequently seen stripped to the waist, their toned bodies epitomizing the physical perfection of an athlete at their prime and here cinematically reflected in the feature having been shot back to front, with Kene and Tovey losing weight prior to the last weeks of filming to showcase the buffed to perfection physiques of their younger incarnations and moreover, the revised and more than fitting ending for its cinematic outing.

True, some may question the narrative itself and yet there's no doubt that many a professional footballer whether by their own choice, or from pressures put upon them by others, let alone lucrative endorsement deals, opts to stay firmly in the sporting closet, as expressed in Jason's cutting line: "so if I say 'I ain't gay' - I ain't gay" even if he is. That every out sports personality paves the way for others to follow in the path of sexual openness, goes without saying. Just as it's equally obvious that this is one of Tovey's finest performances. Simply wondrous.

›› available as part of the LIONSGATE HOME ENTERTAINMENT catalogue: 10th April, 2017 / UK.
›› posted: Saturday, 8th October, 2022.

Gay Visibility - overt | Nudity - bare-arsed cheek | Overall - file under ... 4 stars

›› copyright © 2022 David Hall - www.gaycelluloid.com ‹‹
›› archive reference #2022028 ‹‹
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