Based on Nella Larsen’s 1929 novel, Passing, notable actor Rebecca Hall makes her directorial debut with a film whose existence feels improbable if not for Netflix: an earnest black and white film about Black women “passing” as white in a 4:3 aspect ratio with a forceful cast. With the current cinematic landscape being paved by the glaciers of Marvel and further confined by the limited theatrical releases of the Covid-era, movies like this don’t excite box-office hawks and don’t get greenlighted.
Netflix, less concerned with box office numbers than creating a diverse library of original films, is the perfect home for Passing. (I presume their prioritization of creating their own library is to become less reliant on renting the rights to films from other companies.) Regardless of its quality, its pure existence may be a sign of hope to cinephiles.
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