The Passing Movie Review
Written by Jeff Tolbert
Released by Global Digital Releasing
Directed by Gareth Bryn
Written by Ed Talfan
2015, 89 minutes, Not Rated
Released on VOD on June 13th, 2017
Dyfan Dwyfor as Iwan
Annes Elwy as Sara
Mark Lewis Jones as Stanley
I should probably start by saying that I adore Wales and everything Welsh. I have a Welsh dragon tattoo and a Welsh flag on the wall in my office. I love Brains beer and had a beloved cat named Cadfael. This is all relevant because The Passing is a Welsh film with a Welsh cast and crew, filmed entirely in the Welsh language. What I’m saying is, I might be a teensy bit biased.
Stanley is a stoic, silent man living alone in a huge, ancient house somewhere in the Welsh countryside. He is preoccupied with building a well, which seems slightly ironic given the relentless rain. Sara and Iwan are a couple whose car crashes into the nearby river. Stanley happens upon them, pulls Sara from the wreckage, and silently welcomes the couple into his modest home. He helps nurse the wounded Sara back to health, and endures jittery Iwan’s neuroses.
The couple appears to be on the run from something, though of course it doesn’t become clear what until the final act. Stanley, meanwhile, has secrets of his own, but is oddly endearing in his near refusal to speak. He is gruff and at first appears unfriendly, but we gradually learn that this isn’t the case: he simply doesn’t know how to interact with other people. Sara seems fragile but slightly duplicitous. Iwan is an anxious, jealous mess. The three are the only characters in the entire film, and all three cast members do a great job conveying a collective sense of hopelessness mixed with a weird sense of perverse optimism. Maybe Sara and Iwan have found a place they can stay, and briefly the little group seems almost to be a kind of family. Of course this can’t last, but there’s a moment of beauty in it, slightly askew, but beautiful nonetheless.
I mentioned that the cast members are great, and they are. Mark Lewis as Stanley, though, positively dominates the screen. He perfectly walks the line between a hulking, vaguely menacing creep and an awkward, somehow cute, child-in-a-man’s-body. He is very, very good here, and even without the strong performances of Dyfan Dwyfor and Annes Elwy, he could have carried the film on his own.
This is the quietest and slowest of dark dramas. Horror really isn’t the right word: not because I’m persnickety about what is or isn’t horror, but because there’s not really anything horrifying here. (Maybe there is, but I can’t say.) It’s extremely slow and the central conceits—what sent Sara and Iwan running, Stanley’s reason for living as he does—feel slightly unconvincing. But see it. It’s good. And it’s Welsh.
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