Opening Night Gala

The Pass

Superb drama: two young Premier League footballers seen over three nights in 12 years. A fumbled pass (of the sexual kind) and everything changes, on and off the pitch.

The Pass

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Director Ben A Williams
Producer Duncan Kenworthy
Screenwriter John Donnelly
With Russell Tovey, Arinze Kene, Lisa McGrillis, Nico Mirallegro
UK 2016
88 mins
Production company Toledo Productions Ltd

Ben A Williams’ feature debut is a brilliantly executed adaptation of John Donnelly’s acclaimed Royal Court production, detailing the journey of two young footballers over the course of a decade. The film opens with them holed up in a hotel room in Bulgaria the night before a big match and there’s tension in the air. These highly-trained, physical young men are best mates and rivals, playing out their insecurities through savagely hilarious verbal exchanges and sexually-charged hi-jinks. Money, sex and winning a place on the squad are their obsessions, but the laddish rhythms of their quick fire dialogue are interrupted by an unexpectedly intimate moment. The ‘pass’ of the title refers both to the games played on the pitch and off, the repercussions of which drive the film’s riveting narrative. Skilfully capturing the harsh and unforgiving glare of celebrity, this is a claustrophobic account of two men forced to live with the painful reality of their choices. Williams’ assured direction accentuates the atmosphere of pressure experienced by high-level footballers, with the inventive camerawork adding a delicious energy that belies the script’s theatrical roots. Russell Tovey, at the top of his game, offers up an overwhelming performance as the ambitious and duplicitous Jason who is battling with his sexuality, while Arinze Kene as Ade, Hollyoaks heart-throb Nico Mirallegro and the excellent Lisa McGrillis trade punches and banter with equal vigour. We cannot think of a better way to kick off our 30th year than with this world premiere of a truly distinctive British film.

Brian Robinson