Film Review: “Passages” (2023)

L to R: Franz Rogowski (Tomas) and Ben Whishaw (Martin) in PASSAGES, courtesy of MUBI
L to R: Franz Rogowski (Tomas) and Ben Whishaw (Martin) in PASSAGES, courtesy of MUBI

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Marriage is a union that not everyone can enter into with true commitment. It’s a promise that should never be broken unless there is a compelling reason to do so. Therefore, when the same concept is explored in a cinematic universe, it’s akin to a lottery – either you succeed with your unique storytelling or fail, resembling a fractured marriage itself.

Tomas (Franz Rogowski) and Martin (Ben Whishaw) are purportedly in a blissful marriage. They don’t face any issues that could challenge their relationship. However, when Tomas starts to divert his attention to a young woman, Agathe (Adèle Exarchopoulos), the lives of this gay couple get engulfed in turbulent waves, and the three of them must navigate this uncharted territory. Initially, Tomas hopes that his affair will gain Martin’s approval, but as in real life, hope isn’t limitless.

Co-written by Mauricio Zacharias, Arlette Langmann, and Ira Sachs, and directed by Ira Sachs himself, “Passages” takes a subtle approach to address infidelity, delving into it in a profoundly poignant manner. In fact, the film underscores the notion that a marriage can hardly endure when it becomes overcrowded. However, in this particular scenario, Agathe doesn’t attempt to dismantle Martin and Tomas’ marital bond, even though she enjoys her intimacy with Tomas. Conversely, Martin fails to comprehend Tomas’ fluidity in relationships and refuses to accept the fact that he’s openly engaging in adultery with another person.

As the film begins, it sharply defines Tomas’ personality. He exudes charisma, assertiveness, and demands attention. His tone of voice and body language leave little room for interference – a clear signal to keep a distance. Martin, in contrast, is gentle and amiable. He maintains a tranquil demeanor and avoids conflict. He doesn’t contest Tomas’ actions, serving as a supportive partner. Yet, “Passages” demonstrates that patience has its limits, and once that threshold is crossed, there’s no turning back.

Without revealing too much, director Ira Sachs continues to challenge his characters, affording them an opportunity to step beyond their comfort zones. It’s reminiscent of a neurosurgeon delicately navigating from one nerve system to another to determine its resilience. Tomas and Martin are given a chance to reconcile, yet a moment arrives when they inevitably drift apart. What follows and how their marriage withstands the trial is a narrative that I’m certain you’ll be eager to discover.

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