LSF 2023: ‘Passages’ Review: All’s Fair in this Romantic Drama

Sex, Lies and drama abound as German film director Tomas (Franz Rogowski) meets the beautiful Agathe (Adele Exarchopoulos) and immediately becomes smitten. He does not hide this from his husband Martin (Ben Whishaw) who himself has noticed the handsome author Ahmad (Erwan Kepoa Falé) but soon finds himself tangled in a mess of desire and regret that threatens to engulf them all. 

It’s impossible not to get caught up in the twists and turns of the narratives. The triumphs and failures of the interchangeable heroes and villains in this compelling melodrama. But looking beyond the sex, lies and tears there’s a compelling narrative about commitment and wanderlust. Tomas falls very deeply for the people around him but he also becomes visibly restless when set upon any particular path. 

Franz Rogowski is deliciously devilish as Tomas. As his intentions become more transparent there’s a joy to be found in his sexual mischief-making which easily turns to horror as his disregard for the people he’s with escalates. But he’s more than the villain of the piece. His determination to break whatever status quo settles around him feels tragic and there are real moments of pathos as he fails to contradict the stereotypes and prejudice of Agathe’s parents. The unbearable dinner sequence offers a rare moment of pathos for the character.

Wishaw and Exarchopoulos are excellent supporting characters. The film’s real frustrations and joys are found in their ability or inability to withstand xxx and believe they deserve better. Sachs’s sumptuous approach to scenes of intimacy makes the temptation all too sympathetic. As the film builds towards its climax, more and more high drama is wrought from its premise but the film never loses its authenticity and attention to character drama. 

Five Stars

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