The Pass features an electrified Russell Tovey in the role of footballer Jason, who is unable to reconcile his homosexuality with his work. The film is based on an acclaimed theatre production by John Donnelly’s at the Royal Court, by the same name. The exquisite gay heartthrob Tovey is guarantee to hypnotise you – whether you love or you hate him.
The Pass is a very profound reflection on the shortcomings of the gay community and the football world, and how they have mostly failed to co-exist harmoniously. Tovey was branded the worst gay a few years ago for criticising effeminate gay men and blowing his own horn for being muscular and masculine. He was therefore the natural choice for the role, as in a way he does exactly what he was criticised for: feigning masculinity. Tovey delivers a highly energised, repulsively overconfident and grotesquely masculinised performance.
The film opens with Jason and fellow footballer Ade (Arinze Kene, pictured above with Tovey) in a hotel room in Bulgaria the night before a match. The two underwear-clad machos are prancing and horsing around like children to the point of sexual ebullition. Then time passes and destiny takes some twisted and unexpected turns. Williams examines the dilemmas and split life of Jason throughout the years and the difficult choices he has to make. The film never feels vulgar or exploitative. In fact, it is likely to enter the pantheon of British LGBT classics alongside Beautiful Thing (Hettie MacDonald, 1996) and My Beautiful Launderette (Stephen Frears, 1985).
The pass in the title refers to the games played on the pitch as well as to “crossing the line” in real life. Football is one of the last and strongest bastions of homophobia in the UK, and a reminder that our society still has some way to go before homosexuality is truly accepted. Above all, The Pass is a film about English obsessions and how futile and intoxicating they can become: football, celebrity culture, wealth, voyeurism and fitness. Williams minutely examines and exposes the pathology of all of them. He is supported by very strong performances, as well as simple and effective cinematography (the entire film takes place indoors).
The Pass holds a mirror to gay footballers and their homophobic counterparts. Williams’s debut has both a strong social message and universal appeal. It showed originally at the BFI Flare Film Festival this March, and it is out in cinemas on Friday, December 9th.
Watch the film trailer below: