The Pass

The Pass review: Originally published on Pride at the Pictures

The Pass -adapted from John Donnelly’s play of the same name– is centred on the game of football. A game that has the ability to bring people together; stirring emotions and creating memories that are passed from generation to generation. The “beautiful game” is very much an international community of supporters, players and commentators. It is even recounted that during the First World War, on Christmas Day, soldiers from the trenches along the Western Front, emerged to meet on No Man’s Land; exchanging gifts and playing football. But what place is there in this community for a gay footballer?

Following a childhood of training and preparation for glory, Jason (Russel Tovey) and Ade (Arinzé Kene) find themselves in a hotel room in Bucharest; nervous and excited in anticipation of a game that could change the course of their lives. The narrative of their friendship is played out and ‘banter’ and horseplay demonstrate their bond. Quickly the inference of something more than just friendship becomes apparent. Another five years pass and an older, more established Jason appears.

In the second hotel room of the triptych, our star acts with mastery the narrative between himself and Lyndsey (Lisa McGrillis). Lyndsey, a plant, there to make a sex tape, quickly discovers Jason’s dark secret. He is gay. In coarse but clever wording Jason bursts into a tirade of anger and desperation. His obvious battle with his obligations as a role model and those of his sexual desires are played out in a raw and real way that sees Tovey shine as an actor. In reply to Lyndsey’s question about what year it is, Jason replies “It’s 1966 out there…” with a sadness in his eyes that he keeps for the rest of the film, he has clinched it. The year, the era, the hype.

The status and glory of the beautiful game has risen and grown with every passing decade since the year England won the World Cup, yet attitudes and equality have sadly, stayed back in a time when homosexuals were mentally ill, perverted and criminals. The film adds a second, subtler note to this reality; highlighting the difficulties that still exist with regards to racism.

The third and last scene shows Ade and Jason, ten years after their first encounter; different in so many ways but still the same two young men under the surface. The frenetic and unpredictable interactions are gripping and the arrival of Harry (Nico Mirallegro) fans the flames of Jason’s mania.

The conclusions reached in the movie won’t be spoiled in this article. But the conclusions for viewers to make are already clear. The game of football is the biggest sport in the world; it has the power to shape and inform the minds and hearts of millions. Of those millions, it is no mathematical or logical feat to understand that there will be those who play the game and those who support it that are gay.

The characters of The Pass deny and oppress their need for love for the sake of a façade. A demand that has been placed upon them of what a footballer should be and further, what a man should be. The aftermath speaks for itself… but that is in the movie. What of those players who are in this crisis now? For them, their life is not in the closet, it is a prison cell and the year is still, very much, 1966.