Robert Tanitch reviews Loving and The Pass
Loving (Focus) is the name of an American black and white couple. In 1958, according to Virginia’s anti-miscegenation laws, they are illegally married and threatened with prison if they stay in Virginia. Joe Nichol’s film is modest, tactful and understated. The performances of Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton as the loving couple are unassuming, self-effacing and taciturn. Their case was taken up by the Civil Rights Movement. It is difficult to take the casting of comic Nick Kroll as a civil rights lawyer and Jon Bass as an activist seriously. They act as if they were in a film. Edgerton and Negga, shy and soft-spoken, act as if they were in a documentary. In 1967 the Supreme Court stated that marriage is an inherent right and prohibition of marriage based on race was unconstitutional.
The Pass (Lionsgate). Two 17-year-old footballers, one white, one black, on tour in a foreign country, mess around in their underwear in a hotel bedroom. The camera concentrates on Russell Tovey’s underwear. The cocky, arrogant white guy (Tovey) later becomes a premiere league footballer. The black guy (Arinze Kene), the better player, becomes a plumber. The Pass, written by John Donnelly, was originally a play staged at the Royal Court Theatre Upstairs in 2014. Tovey recreates the role he played then: a closet gay celebrity passing himself off as straight because he fears his football career will be finished if he comes out. His performance is visibly too stagy for the screen. Arinze Kene, new to the cast, rightly underplays. Director Ben A Williams doesn’t open up the story. He keeps to the three act structure and remains indoors, small and focused. There is no football. It is extremely unlikely that any closet gay footballer seeing the film will even think about coming out.