Film Critique: Ira Sachs’ fiery ‘Passages’ captures the disorder of infatuation and love

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Passages Movie Review

For those lamenting the lack of sensuality in contemporary cinema, rejoice: “Passages”, the new movie on the block, leaves no stone unturned in its portrayal of the invigorating fervor of a romantic tryst.

However, “Passages” could use a disclaimer, not just because of its authentic portrayals of both queer and heterosexual intimacy that led the film to be assigned an NC-17 rating. (Instead, its distributor, MUBI, chose to launch it as an unrated film in theaters.) No, “Passages” requires a cautionary note due to its raw depiction of the heady stupor of a budding relationship and its resulting casualties.

At the outset, it’s entertaining and fraught with danger (but aren’t all relationships initially?). Directed by Ira Sachs in collaboration with his co-writer Mauricio Zacharias, “Passages” revolves around Tomas (Franz Rogowski), a German settled in France with his English spouse Martin (Ben Whishaw), who embarks on an affair with a French woman, Agathe (Adèle Exarchopoulos).

Tomas is a film director. We see him painstakingly fine-tuning performances in a scene. He doesn’t appear to be the type to resort to tirades or criticism towards those around him, yet his insistence on control and precision is far from trivial.

Much like many directors, Tomas carries this attitude into his personal life and relationships. At the wrap party, Martin isn’t in the mood to dance with Tomas, but freshly single Agathe is. Later that evening, they find themselves in bed, and the next day Tomas returns home to recount to his husband the exhilaration of his encounter with a woman.

“Passages”, as many have observed, carries a distinctly European ethos, despite its American director. Sexual orientations are fluid (and don’t necessitate discussion or justification). Loyalty and monogamy aren’t held in high esteem. Wine isn’t confined to the evening hours. And mesh shirts and crop tops aren’t exclusive to the club scene (kudos to Khadija Zeggaï’s vibrant, cutting-edge costume design).

Yet, even the most progressive young individuals still possess feelings capable of being bruised, despite their rational dismissal of conventional societal norms. Later, in a painfully uncomfortable dinner with Agathe’s parents, Tomas is asked about his intentions towards their daughter and his future plans.

Tomas reacts defensively and aggressively to their inquiry. And although you can sympathize with both parties, as with many scenarios in “Passages”, Tomas appears the most flawed. He’s so engrossed in satisfying his own desires and ambitions that he fails to empathize with others. He’s learned to seek solace elsewhere at the first sign of rejection. Is he consciously manipulative, simply prioritizing his heart over all else, or a baffling mixture of both? That’s left for the audience to interpret, but the devastation he leaves behind is tangible.

She often plays the role of a prop or counterpoint more than a fully fleshed-out character. In one of the few scenes where she is presented without Tomas, she faces an interrogation about her romantic life by her young pupils. Yet, Exarchopoulos still adds depth and nuance that might not be initially apparent.

Some have compared “Passages” to a horror film (although aren’t all coming-of-age films horrifying in some manner?) Nonetheless, it would pair well with Christian Petzold’s “Afire” for a movie night. Both films allow you to sample the emotional roller coaster of studying abroad, complete with all its tempestuous emotions, sans the real emotional fallout or jet lag.

“Passages,” a MUBI release hitting select theaters on Friday, is unrated. Run time: 91 minutes. Rated three stars out of four.

Follow AP Film Critic Lindsey Bahr on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ldbahr.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Passages Movie Review

What is the movie “Passages” about?

“Passages” is a film directed by Ira Sachs that explores the complexities and repercussions of a new relationship. It is centered on Tomas, a film director who starts an affair with a French woman named Agathe, despite being married to his English husband Martin. The film does not shy away from portraying the realities of both queer and heterosexual intimacy.

Who directed the movie “Passages”?

“Passages” was directed by Ira Sachs, who worked with his co-writer Mauricio Zacharias on the film.

Who are the lead actors in the movie “Passages”?

The lead roles in “Passages” are played by Franz Rogowski as Tomas, Adèle Exarchopoulos as Agathe, and Ben Whishaw as Martin.

What rating did the movie “Passages” receive?

“Passages” was initially slapped with an NC-17 rating due to its explicit depiction of queer and heterosexual intimacy. However, its distributor, MUBI, chose to release it in theaters as an unrated film.

What is the running time of the movie “Passages”?

“Passages” has a running time of 91 minutes.

Who is the costume designer for “Passages”?

The costume design for “Passages” was done by Khadija Zeggaï, who was applauded for her vibrant and edgy designs.

What rating was given to “Passages” in the review?

The movie “Passages” received three stars out of four in this review.

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