Passages explores the complexities of a unique love triangle
As anyone who’s ever been in a relationship can attest, sharing a life with someone can be enormously complicated. No matter how much two people have in common, there will always be things for which they don’t see eye-to-eye. Sometimes they’re minor and sometimes they’re major, and how each person handles those differences can often determine if they stay together or not.
A fairly significant difference in mindsets is at the center of Passages. We are introduced to the couple of Tomas (Franz Rogowski) and Martin (Ben Whishaw) when they’re out at a club one night. Tomas, celebrating the end of a film he was making, wants to stay out dancing. He asks Agathe (Adèle Excharopoulos), a woman he meets at the club, to dance, which starts him down the road to having an affair with her.
Tomas doesn’t try to hide the tryst; in fact, he tells Martin about it the next morning. But what Tomas sees as no big deal, and maybe even an addition to their relationship, Martin sees as selfish behavior bordering on betrayal. Tomas, unable to help himself, continues to bounce back-and-forth between Martin and Agathe, much to the chagrin of both of them.
Directed by Ira Sachs and written by Sachs and Mauricio Zacharias, the film will likely bring up complex feelings for many viewers. Those who like to use labels will have a hard time nailing down Tomas’ sexuality, as his words and actions make him seem to fluctuate between being gay and being bisexual.
But what never seems in doubt is Tomas’ narcissism, as he has to have a partner to define his life, but can’t find a way to put either person’s needs first. His waffling is infuriating, as he expects Martin to take him back no matter what, and for Agathe to be there when he needs another kind of release. Sachs does an excellent job of setting up the central conflict, never letting Tomas off the hook with easy answers.
In addition to its unusual love triangle, the film is notable for its NC-17 rating, which would appear to stem from one relatively graphic sex scene between Tomas and Martin. While that scene does go farther than most mainstream movies would, it’s not that much more graphic than some heteronormative sex scenes in other movies, making one wonder if homophobia is at play in the rating.
Each of the three main actors do a great job of getting across the thorny nature of the plot. Whishaw is the most well-known, starring in James Bond and Paddington movies, and he brings a quiet dignity to the role. German actor Rogowski will be unfamiliar to American audiences, which helps him inhabit his role completely. French actress Excharopolous, best known for the lesbian drama Blue is the Warmest Color, is interesting casting, imbuing the role with more meaning than another actor might.
Passages depicts a situation that’s not often seen in movies, which automatically makes it intriguing. The performances of the actors and the way Sachs handles the storytelling give the film a depth not often found, more than enough reason for film lovers to seek it out.
Passages opens in select theaters on August 11.