Passages (2023)

Sexy ‘Passages’ reinvents the love triangle

The undeniably sensuous “Passages” blows into town this weekend on a jet stream of well-deserved hype. It’s everything you’ve come to expect from a director as daring as Ira Sachs, an auteur who can charm you with a film as delicate and sweet as “Little Men,” or devastate you with a work as wrenching as “Love Is Strange.” But “Passages” may top them all.

Set in modern-day Paris, it thrives on a blindingly impactful performance by Franz Rogowski (“Transit”) as Tomas, a selfish, egotistical film director (Are there any other kind?) in the maelstrom of a messy love triangle of his own making. What initially appears as a solid marriage between Tomas and his husband, lithographer Martin (the always superb Ben Whishaw from “Women Talking”), soon reveals significant cracks when the sexy school teacher, Agathe (Adele Exarchopoulos from “Blue Is the Warmest Color”) shows up at a wrap party for Tomas’ new film.

In no time, they go from vertical expression to horizontal mambo, leaving Martin in their carnal dust. And that’s just the beginning of a 91-minute, emotional roller-coaster, with sex and unchecked desires the golden carrot Tomas is driven to chase, regardless of whom he leaves in his bed-hopping wake.

Sachs, who co-wrote the script with regular collaborator Mauricio Zacharias, holds nothing back in literally exposing his trio of fine actors in graphic scenes pushing the boundaries of on-screen sex. It would be tempting to label the film exploitative if not for the sincerity of Sachs’ intent to illustrate what a powerful recreational drug sex can become when morality is casually discarded.

As you may have guessed, Tomas is hardly a likable guy, but in the skilled hands of Rogowski, you can’t take your eyes off him, as he rips apart the hearts of all who meet his acquaintance. In that respect, Tomas is a monster, and Rogowski audaciously portrays him as such. But he also allows us to see the uncertain little boy still firmly ensconced within. It’s inevitable that he and everyone around him will eventually get burned by that rampant immaturity.

In that sense, “Passages” is very much a cautionary tale about the consequences of being so beguiled by a partner that you become blind to their obvious faults. I’m sure we’ve all encountered a Tomas on the battlefield of amour. And we pray we never face him again.

Movie review


Rated: Not rated

Cast: Franz Rogowski, Ben Whishaw and Adele Exarchopoulos

Director: Ira Sachs

Writers: Sachs and Mauricio Zacharias

Runtime: 91 minutes

Grade: B+

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