Whew, this awards season is so crowded. On the heels of Nightmare Alley, Belfast, and The Tragedy of Macbeth comes the trailer for Passing, Rebecca Hall’s feature directorial debut starring Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga. Passing was one of the Sundance stand-outs this year, based on Nella Larsen’s novel and centered on two women in 1920s New York played by Thompson and Negga. Both are Black, but one is passing for white, including being married to a hateful white man who makes no secret of his prejudices (played by Alexander Skarsgard, who has developed a real knack for playing villains and curs). Passing was on my “to watch” list for Sundance, and I noted it would probably be one of the fest’s most expensive sales, given its star power and subject. Indeed, it sold to Netflix for almost $16 million.
The film looks great—it’s part of the black and white subset for the year—if probably very depressing. Both actress races are already competitive, so Passing will need significant traction to break through Negga and/or Thompson, or for Hall as a writer/director. It’s not impossible, but this year is SO crowded, it’s going to take that extra measure to stand out from the crowd, and it won’t help that The Power of the Dog is Netflix’s awards baby this year. But Negga, Thompson, and Hall are all well-respected by their peers, so a prestige project uniting them, especially if Passing delivers on this very promising trailer, it could be one of the outsider interrupters for the year.