They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder. But, in Passages, that yearning often has toxic consequences.
Directed by Ira Sachs, Passages follows the exploits of Tomas (Franz Rogowski), a filmmaker whose marriage to Martin (Ben Whishaw) is struggling. After his latest feature wraps, Tomas encounters Agathe (Adele Exarchopoulos), a stunning young schoolteacher that immediately charms him. After a night of passion together, Tomas finds himself eager to explore the potential of this new sexual relationship, sending shockwaves into his marriage. But when Martin begins to find love in the arms of another man, Tomas is the one who feels spurned and begins to re-pursue is husband.
With Passages, Sachs creates a modern love triangle that highlights the damage that can be done at the hands of selfishness. By focusing on the journeys of his characters, Sachs manages to draw out the emotional complexity of his characters through their moments of intimacy together. In many ways, he keeps the camerawork simple as he moves from room to room. As each door closes, we understand that these characters want their privacy. However, when they stay in one place together, things begin to break down. When left alone, these characters either spark their sexual chemistry immediately or relationships become the burning embers of a flame that has been extinguished.
Performances by Exarchopoulos and Whishaw are engaging but the strongest work easily comes from Rogowski. As the self-absorbed director, Rogowski plays Tomas with a freewheeling spirit. To Tomas, what matters is the moment and he struggles to understand the damage he leaves when he gives in to his whims. With wildness in his soul, Rogowski does an excellent job of making the irresponsibility of this character somewhat endearing. We both adore his immaturity, yet ache at the pain that he causes.
What’s most intriguing about Thomas though is his openness. Immediately after sleeping with Agathe, he returns to his husband and informs him of what has just happened. However, he does so not out of remorse, but out of joy. To Tomas, he’s discovered something new, and that is worth telling the world about, even if it leaves his marriage shattered. Tomas’ inability to see beyond his own sexual urges prevents him from investing in those that he loves most dearly. As his old relationship ends and his new one begins, he has difficulty letting go of the past and moving forward. As things become more serious with Agathe, he begins to look back on his relationship with Martin and yearns for what he once had.
For Thomas, love is a feeling strictly a feeling and, when that feeling dissipates, it leaves him lost.
As such, Passages is very much a film that explores the nature of trust. Sachs’ characters are willing to offer trust to others but their knowledge of one another prevents them for doing so. After all, the more that one keeps their secrets close to their vest, the more difficult it is for them to be trusted. In Passages, relationships are built upon the backs of trust and, when that is broken, even the best of relationships begins to crack.
As a result, Sachs’ Passages becomes a film that’s both moving and frustrating. Well-written and executed, this is a story that is designed to break the hearts of viewers, especially those that connect with its characters. Nevertheless, Sachs also imbues the film with a sense of hope that, maybe, there is hope for these broken people in the end.
Passages is available in theatres on Friday, August 11, 2023.