A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Positive themes of friendship, community, and self-preservation, especially in the face of bigotry and racism. Deals with complex isssues surrounding race and identity, making it clear that the characters' experiences passing for White don't mean they're any less Black. The way the movie ends shows this to be true. Passing for White offers a false sense of security, and nothing could afford these Black women power and protection from "whiteness."
Positive Role Models
Irene celebrates her identity as a Black woman. She welcomes Clare, knowing that Clare has lived a life of untruths -- hiding her identity as a Black woman and marrying a racist White man. Other characters display racist bigotry.
Irene and Clare are light-skinned Black women who grapple with the complicated impact of being able to "pass" for White. Other characters are White and Black. Diversity in age and gender representation, but little in ability or sexuality.
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Violence & Scariness
Discussion of racially motivated violence, including lynching. In a heated interaction, one character steps backward and falls out a window, resulting in death. Their body is shown on the pavement from afar.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Married characters shown embracing and kissing (implication is that it leads to sex).
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Occasional use of the "N" word.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Adults occasionally smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Passing is a nuanced drama about two Black friends in 1920s New York, one of whom chooses to pass for White. When Irene (Tessa Thompson) runs into her childhood friend, Clare (Ruth Negga), she learns that Clare has been "passing" for many years, fabricating a backstory and marrying a racist White man (Alexander Skarsgård). Clare finds comfort in re-connecting with Irene, who celebrates being Black. Irene must decide whether to welcome Clare into her life -- a life she has carefully curated to validate her dignity and worthiness as a Black woman. Mature content includes use of the "N" word, discussion of racially motivated violence (including lynching), a character taking a fatal fal from a window, and occasional drinking and cigarette smoking. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Passing is a stylized yet nuanced look into the practice of Black people passing for White. The film is able to explore whiteness in a unique way, since neither of the main characters is White. As a result, "whiteness" plays an abstract character of its own, both alluring and plaguing the movie's Black community. Irene, her husband, and her friends each have their moment of attraction toward Clare: It's the classic dynamic of oppressed people coveting the likeness of their oppressor. Clare represents a privilege that they have likely, if subconsciously, aspired to have. She has access to the power and protection that comes with being seen as White.
But that privilege isn't free. It has caused Clare to relinquish aspects of her true self. Irene, on the other hand, has had to nurture her power and protection on her own. A friendship with Clare means a friendship with someone who hides an identity they both share. If Clare rejects her own blackness, how can she possibly value Irene's blackness? Passing is a beautiful directorial debut from Rebecca Hall. Thompson exhibits restrained intensity as Irene, and Negga plays a lost, reckless, yet inescapably lovable Clare. Sensitivity and generosity touch every element of the production, from the cinematography to the editing, allowing viewers to sit in the prolonged emotion of the characters.
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Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
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Our Editors Recommend
Movies with Inspiring Black Girls and Women
Drama Movies That Tug at the Heartstrings
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