Netflix has released the trailer for Rebecca Hall’s Passing, which is adapted from Nella Larsen’s prominent 1929 novel of the same name.
Passing tells the story of Irene Redfield (Tessa Thompson) and Clare Kendry (Ruth Negga), two Black women living in the midst of the Harlem Renaissance who can “pass” as white, and Clare takes hold of the opportunity to be a white woman in every sector of her life. After the former childhood friends are reunited by a serendipitous event, Irene warily allows Clare into her home, where she merges with Irene’s family and husband (André Holland), along with her social circle. With their lives becoming increasingly more interlaced, Irene finds her once stable life disheveled by Clare. As described in the official synopsis, Passing is “a riveting examination of obsession, repression, and the lies people tell themselves and others to protect their carefully constructed realities.”
The trailer achieves the sensational and compelling tone of Passing, while also staying true to the 1920 era. Shot in black and white, sophistication permeates through the preview, but we also see flashes of the inevitable unraveling between Irene and Clare.
Passing is regarded as Nella Larsen’s most important work, and in recent years has received more attention because of its analysis of racial and sexual complexities and ambiguities. It’s based on true historic accounts that likely still occur today: In the early to mid 1900s, very fair-skinned African Americans would sometimes conceal their true racial identity in order to reap the benefits of being a Caucasian in America, thus avoiding unfair treatment and second-class citizenship. The novel was also the inspiration behind Brit Bennett’s The Vanishing Half, which examines two twin sisters and the separate lives they live as one passes for white and the other embraces her Black identity.
The film stars Tessa Thompson, Ruth Negga, André Holland, Gbenga Akinnagbe, and Antoinette Crowe-Legacy. Passing will premiere in select theaters during October, and arrives on Netflix’s streaming platform on November 10th.