FILM REVIEW | Passing

If you decide to make a film in black and white, you're already cutting out a bunch of your potential audience.

Some people just won't watch a movie that's not in colour, no matter how prestigious.

But the greyscale choice has deeper meaning in Rebecca Hall's directorial debut, Passing, now streaming on Netflix.

The film follows two women who grew up together in Harlem, New York, and have met again after years apart in the Prohibition era.

They are both light-skinned African-American women - Clare (Ruth Negga, exceptional) is 'passing' as a white woman, with a white husband, while Irene (Tessa Thompson, solid as always) is secretary of a Black rights organisation.

Immersive: Ruth Negga and Tessa Thompson star in the stirring but frustratingly introspective Passing, rated PG, streaming on Netflix now. Picture: Netflix

Immersive: Ruth Negga and Tessa Thompson star in the stirring but frustratingly introspective Passing, rated PG, streaming on Netflix now. Picture: Netflix

The musings on race and responsibility - to oneself, one's family and one's culture - are complex and engaging, and brought beautifully to life by our leads.

But the film is perhaps too frustratingly introspective to have a wide appeal.

That said, if you've got the time and inclination to give yourself over to the story, you'll be rewarded.

Passing poses many moral questions, questions that director Hall - with her own mixed race heritage - explores without judgement or resolution.

Thompson, usually so commanding and self-assured in her roles, plays a more questioning, melancholy character than audiences are used to. Her shock at the film's climax is easily felt by the viewer.

But Negga - who played such an understated role in another excellent story on race, Loving - is the life of the party, delivering her lines with old-Hollywood panache.

It is not hard to see why everyone who meets Clare is immediately pulled into her orbit, revolving around her forever.

The support cast is also top-notch, featuring Andre Holland (Moonlight), Bill Camp (The Queen's Gambit) and Alexander Skarsgard (Big Little Lies).

Rating: 6.5/10