Eye For Film >> Movies >> The Passing (2015) Film Review
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
Though its total land area is only 8,000 square miles, there are rural areas of Wales that feel as remote as anywhere in the world. Part of the reason for that is the hills, part of it the poor transport infrastructure, part of it the climate; it can be a difficult place to traverse and an easy place to get lost in. It's an attractive place for those who want to get lost. Iwan (Dyfan Dwyfor_ and Sara (Annes Elwy) are perhaps a little too eager to disappear. Their car goes off the road, plunges into a river. They'd be dead if it weren't for Stanley (Mark Lewis Jones), who forces the car door open and carries Sara through the valley to his home.
The film is a three-hander: Iwan, Sara and Stanley in the house where the latter has long been alone, where the only other figures are the shadows of his family members, glimpsed in old photographs. Stanley gives the couple shelter, food, a bed where they can be together. He is gentle but remote, unused to conversation. Sara gradually warms to him, but Iwan does not warm to that. Sullen, suspicious, and used to having his own way, he feels crushed by the enclosed spaces that make her feel at ease. As he pushes at boundaries, deliberately testing his host, little snippets of Stanley's past begin to emerge. It's not clear quite where his boundaries lie, nor what he might do if the pressure becomes too much. They are, after all, on his territory.
Iwan and Sara are not complete strangers to this land - they speak Welsh as fluently as Stanley does - but there's something about them that might not fit in anywhere, something amiss. We observe them through Bryn's lingering camera, framed in small spaces, enclosed by old whitewashed walls or crumbled stone or rain. The low valley, its own concave universe, is constantly awash. Stanley is digging a well but must battle constantly to keep it from being refilled by mud washed down by the rain. As he works, Sara explores, finds the house a palimpsest. In the garage, tiny wooden animal queue in pairs beside a miniature Noah's Ark. Stanley's Bible lies beside his bed. The fear of sin is omnipresent but it's far from clear where responsibility might lie.
The Passing is a film that unfolds slowly, managing to keep hold of some of its secrets right up until the end. Its claustrophobic setting begets tension; Bryn knows when to stand back and let it build. Each of the actors gives a finely tuned performance with Elwy particularly impressive as she moves to the fore. The rawness of the themes it addresses is eased by Richard Stoddard's beautiful photography and the whole has an old fashioned quality that makes it all the more beguiling. As a first feature, it's an exceptional piece of work.Reviewed on: 03 Apr 2016
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