Netflix's Passing starring Ruth Negga and Tessa Thompson

Netflix’s new Rebecca Hall film, Passing, is already a very big deal. Here’s why.

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Everyone’s talking about Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga’s new Netflix film, Passing – and for good reason. 

It’s official; Netflix has purchased Passing, which premiered to rave reviews at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

Announcing the acquisition via Twitter, a Netflix spokesperson wrote: “Passing, the Sundance directorial debut from Rebecca Hall, is officially coming to Netflix!”

Here’s what you need to know about the black-and-white film everyone’s already talking about.

What’s the plot of Passing?

Based on the 1929 novel by Nella Larsen, the film follows two Black women living in 1920s New York. One of the women, Clare Kendry, passes for white and even has a white husband who doesn’t know she’s Black – a decision that her friend, Irene Redfield, struggles to understand.

It’s a tragic story, and one which has been praised for its complex depiction of race, gender and sexuality. And, yes, it seems the film adaptation has absolutely done the novel justice, with Variety praising it for being a “superbly performed study of racialised longing and feminine dissatisfaction in 1920s New York, lit by searing intelligence and compassion.” 

Who stars in Passing?

Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga take the lead in Passing as Irene and Clare respectively, and critics have piled praise on their “searing” performances.

They are joined by the talented André Holland, Gbenga Akinnagbe, Antoinette Crowe-Legacy, Alexander Skarsgård, Bill Camp, Ethan Barrett, and Justus Davis Graham. 

Who is the director of Passing?

Explaining to IndieWire why she was drawn to direct Passing, Rebecca Hall said: “I come from a family where there was a history of African-American white passing, [with] my grandfather and most likely his parents also…

“Not only did the book strike a chord with me, I was very moved and had a deep understanding of these women. I also had a context for the first time in my life for this aspect of my family history. I could put a name onto it because the stuff that I did know added up with a lot of historical aspects of this particular thing going on.

“For all of these reasons, I was very moved by it.” 

What are critics saying about Passing?

Those critics who were lucky enough to attend the Passing premiere at the Sundance Film Festival have already begun waxing lyrical about it.

“Negga and Thompson are splendid as women whose primary impulses lead them to live lies, constructs that take them very far – and, in the most drastic case, fatally so – from what they were born to be,” says Deadline.

“Upon release, Passing will undoubtedly spark ardent dialogue around the questions it ponders and about the characters through which it explores them,” notes The Wrap.

And Time Out promises the film is “muted, quiet, suggestive, and it needs to be felt – to be filtered through your own experiences.” 

When will Passing become available for streaming on Netflix?

Fans will have to wait to see Passing as the film doesn’t have a release date, but it’s a safe bet that it will roll out on Netflix sometime in 2021. 

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Images: Netflix

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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.

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