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Stars: Tessa Thompson, Ruth Negga, Andre Holland, Bill Camp, Alexander Skarsgard

Director: Rebecca Hall

This is a sad little story filmed in black and white and nicely set in New York in 1926. Daring to enter a swish whites-only hotel, mixed-race Reenie (Thompson) runs into an old friend, Clare (Negga), a much lighter-skinned mixed-race woman, who has dyed her hair blonde, married an Aryan businessman (Skarsgard) and is 'passing' for white.

Despite Renie's reservations, Clare battens on to her and her doctor husband Brian (Holland), and turns Reenie's life and emotions upside-down, while Brian, though initially hostile, feels drawn to the blonde 'passer'. But, for all her wealth and position, Clare is not a happy woman and longs for her old life, while Reenie finds herself doubting her own happiness, unsurprisingly when Brian insists on going into graphic detail with their two young sons about black men being lynched by whites 'down south'.

Excellent, moody black-and-white photography compliments a restrained telling of the tale by actress Hall, but the big drawback here is executive producer Thompson. She's not particularly good in the demanding central role, with line readings that are distinctly strange and marginally unconvincing. Ethiopian-born Brit actress Negga on the other hand, is haunting as the brittle Clare. There's a surprising and somewhat abrupt ending.

David Quinlan

USA/UK 2020. UK Distributor: Netflix. Black and white.
98 minutes. 4 x 3 screen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 19 Nov 2021