Passages is the examination of a two men’s marriage and how the relationship shifts when one of them begins a sexual relationship with a woman for the first time. Coming from France and earning an NC-17 rating, this film has been the topic of many discussions surrounding sex on screen and whether it was entirely necessary to advance this story’s narrative. In any event, this minimalist French drama attempts to tackle ideas of relationship fluidity and examines the human need of searching for something more when you already have what you need.
Tomas (Franz Rogowski) is a film director who pours his heart and soul into the projects he works on, including the one he just recently wrapped. Lately, he and his husband Martin (Ben Wishaw) have been drifting apart and feel more like friends in their relationship than anything. Things only become more complicated after Tomas begins to fall for Agathe (Adèle Exarchopoulos), bringing up questions about his own sexuality and what it will mean for his marriage. It’s a new and exciting feeling that he gets being with Agathe, but there’s more than just a marriage on the line as all these relationships become more intertwined.
Premiering at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, I was more than intrigued by Passages after hearing all the controversy of it being awarded an NC-17 rating, which only happens in extreme cases of sexual content or violence/gore. As with other French films and even one starring Exarchopoulos (Blue Is The Warmest Color), there’s a decent amount of mostly graphic sex in this movie and truthfully I don’t believe most of it was necessary. For a 90-minute movie that’s at least 10-minutes of sex, this movie fails to gain any momentum all throughout as it seems to work itself in circles.
Passages could have been far more emotionally investing, while also being a far more nuanced take on polygamy and the fluidity of attraction that some can feel. Rather than exploring the natural drama brought on by Tomas’ decisions, the film spends most if its time avoiding discussions about the reality of the situations and only leaves you feeling less great about the whole thing. The performances from Wishaw and Exarchopoulos are particularly good but given the runtime you wish that we’d spent more time with both characters. I really hoped for more with Passages, and I just hope we can see a film tackle a similar subject but next time actually tackle it head on.
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