Netflix Acquires Sundance Film 'Passing' With Tessa Thompson And Ruth Negga

Netflix has purchased Passing, the Sundance movie from director Rebecca Hall that stars Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga. Based on the 1929 novel by Nella Larsen, the film follows two Black women living in 1920s New York. One of the women, played by Negga, passes for white and even has a white husband who doesn't know she's Black – a decision that her friend, played by Thompson, grapples with. It's a film that deals with race, gender, identity, and sexuality, and it's received positive reviews following its recent Sundance premiere.

Netflix made the announcement via their Twitter account – Passing is headed to the streaming service. There's no date yet, but since the film is finished there's a good chance we could see it this year. I wouldn't be surprised if Netflix tried to hold it until November or December with hopes of getting awards season attention, because it's certainly a film that could land a few nominations.

In Passing, "Irene Redfield (Tessa Thompson), a refined, upper-class 1920s woman, finds breezy refuge from a hot summer day in the grand tearoom of New York City's Drayton Hotel. Across the room, she spots a blond woman staring her down. Irene wants to steal away, but before she can, Clare Kendry (Ruth Negga) rushes over to stop her. It turns out the two were in high school together, and while both are African American women who can 'pass' as white, they have chosen to live on opposite sides of the color line. Now, their renewed acquaintance threatens them both."

The official Sundance page for the film describes it as "an elegant psychological thriller about obsession, repression, and the lies people tell themselves and others to protect their carefully constructed realities." While I agree that it's an elegant film about obsession, repression, and lies, I don't know if I'd go so far as to call it a "psychological thriller." However, it is quite good. I reviewed the film at the festival and wrote:

Thompson and Negga are transcendent in their respective roles. Negga's Clare gets to have more fun, and since the film is told entirely through Irene's POV, Clare remains something of a mystery to us just as she does to Irene – we don't really know what's going on in her head. But Negga gives us hints through silent, weighted glances that seem to say so much without saying anything. Thompson, in contrast, is a bundle of nervous energy. She adopts an almost Mid-Atlantic accent to make the character seem extra-propper while playing Irene as someone so rigid that she might crack. Thompson has continually turned in memorable work but this might be her finest performance to date.

According to The Wrap, Netflix shelled out something close to $16 million to acquire the rights to the film.