Review: Passages

Passages Review: Rogowski cheated his wife Whishaw with Exarchopoulos.

The most recent drama Passages from director Ira Sachs is an uncomfortably engaging human drama about a man who destroys his marriage in search of novelty because he feels “burdened” by being known. Written jointly by Sachs and his partner Mauricio Zacharias,

The first scene of Passages shows filmmaker Tomas (Franz Rogowski) working on the set of his newest movie, also titled Passages. Offering detailed notes that rapidly become degrading is a striking indication of Tomas’ obsession with control without compromise.

In his earlier appearances, Rogowski fueled his soft-spoken demeanor into amiable, kind romantic characters, particularly in his sad romances for German filmmaker Christian Petzold (Transit, Undine). This quality is misrepresented here as the model wears crop tops and a variety of adorable animal patterns. Tomas’ soft demeanor becomes part of his manipulations, possibly as a result of confusion about what he wants; in reaction, his husband Martin (Ben Whishaw) silently simmers in annoyance at Tomas’ inattention and myopia.

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Tomas meets Agathe (Adèle Exarchopoulos) during a wrap party shortly after the in-film Passages is finished, and they soon begin a passionate relationship. While Tomas is drawn away from the (usually gratifying) work of marriage, Sachs’ soft approach carries us through passionate sex scenes. This is because maintaining a relationship in which your significant other is acutely aware of your habits requires a lot of work.

But Agathe is no fool; she immediately realizes that Tomas is just looking for something different, and Exarchopoulos gives her character a conflicted mixture of exhilaration and caution. By making false promises of things actually working out, Sachs’ observation of those shifting emotions is itself alluring.

Passages is a romantic drama with no clear winners, but it is alternately tender and thorny in its close character study of a narcissist. It is anchored by excellent performances from its three intertwined leads, and that feeling of cinematic seduction only grows once Tomas is drawn back to Martin again. Their sex scenes together suggest the kind of love and sensuality that Tomas can’t help but sabotage.

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