Passages (dir. Ira Sachs)

By: Adam Freed

Life is only lived meaningfully if in concert with others.  Orbiting in and out of rotational social proximity can present the permanence of life long friendships or the temporary elation of a fleeting romance.  Writer and director Ira Sachs uses his lightning rod romantic drama Passages, to explore the delicate intricacies of a rare three way Parisian entanglement that strikes gold in both realistic sensuality and the insecurities that come in its pursuit.  Sachs executes casting brilliance as all three sides of his love triangle have equal depth, purpose and desire.  Each character is only as lovable as their relationship to one another, making the contemporary romance far more reality than fantasy.  Not for one second does Sachs’ direction saturate the film’s precarious plot with judgment or attempt to preach, only to reflect that the human heart can be a painfully fickle instrument, capable of ruinous outcomes with seemingly little effort at all.

Equally impressive in Passages is that the triangular relationship never feels forced, the sparks between Tomas & his husband Martin, feel equally authentic to those that prompt Tomas’ initial affair with the lovely albeit naive Agathe.  Credit to the triumvirate of performances at the heart of Passages success.  Tomas’ nausea-inducing vacillation is captured with selfish perfection by German actor Franz Rogowski.  Tomas’ husband Martin, played by Ben Whishaw (Skyfall, The Lobster) adds an open heart and humanity to the predicament.  Martin is far more understanding and free of judgment than most audiences, yet presents the opportune counterpunch of sensitivity to Tomas’ wandering heart.  Where Passages elevates in memory though is through the casting of the lovely and endearing Adèle Exarchopoulos, who as Agathe, must be convincing in her raw sexual appeal, yet maintain an innocence that prevents her from plunging into the depths of homewrecker.  The French actress Exarchopoulos threads this needle with aplomb.  

There is a great deal to absorb within Passages’ first act, as Sachs gracefully allows the rhythms of The City of Light to permeate the film’s tone and for the trilogy of characters to penetrate the hearts of audiences.  Despite the various reasons for which all three characters could be judged mercilessly, their shared humanity provokes a collective rooting interest rather than a uniform disdain.  Passages is a beautiful contemporary film shot in the world’s most chic and cosmopolitan city.  Three lives rotate in orbit of one another, gravitationally close, devastatingly intertwined forever.    

Target Score: 8/10 - Contemporary Paris proves the ideal backdrop for an unforgettably gritty and achingly realistic love triangle between a man, his husband and the lovable young lady who finds herself caught in between.  Writer and director Ira Sachs achieves the delicate balance of presenting the humanity of broken hearts in a way that is impressively free of judgment.