Passing

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Not suitable under 10; parental guidance to 12 (mature themes (racism, segregation, violence against minorities) and likely lack of interest)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Passing
  • a review of Passing completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 4 November 2021.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 10 Not suitable due to mature themes (racism, segregation, violence against minorities) and lack of interest.
Children aged 10–12 Parental guidance recommended due to mature themes (racism, segregation, violence against minorities) and likely lack of interest.
Children over the age of 12 Ok for this age group.

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Passing
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild Themes and Coarse Language
Length: 98 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Clare (Ruth Negga) and Irene (Tessa Thompson) – both of mixed racial background – went to school together in Chicago and then went their separate ways. Over a decade later, in the late 1920s, they have a chance encounter in New York, where Irene is now married to African American doctor Brian (André Holland). Clare on the other hand has decided to ‘pass’ as a white woman, and has taken it so far as to keeping her African American ancestry secret from her white and racist husband John (Alexander Skarsgård). While Clare enjoys the advantages and comforts of passing as white, she feels an increasing urge to reconnect with her roots, and starts to spend more and more time with Irene, who is actively involved in the ‘Negro Welfare League’. Tensions start to arise as social butterfly Clare turns heads in Irene’s circles – including Brian’s – and as she is taking more risks to be found out by her prejudiced husband.

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Black and White; Arty; Drama; Period Piece; Racism; African American subculture.

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence in this movie, including:

  • While violence against minorities is not depicted directly, characters talk about violence and racism against African Americans, including false allegations and lynching.
  • When John finds out that Clare is in fact coloured, he verbally abuses her, and as he storms towards her, pushes her, upon which she falls out the window to her death.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • Children in this age group are likely to be scared or disturbed by the above-mentioned scenes and images.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes and scary visual images, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged five to eight, including the following:

  • Children in this age group are likely to be scared or disturbed by the above-mentioned scenes and images.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged eight to thirteen, including the following:

  • Some children in this age group are likely to be scared or disturbed by the above-mentioned scenes and images.

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

  • Nothing further of concern.

Product placement

  • None noted.

Sexual references

  • None noted.

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some nudity and sexual activity in this movie, including:

  • Irene and Brian kiss and it is implied that they will be getting intimate.

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • Adults are seen consuming alcohol and smoking cigarettes.

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  • Goddammit.
  • Nig (short for ‘nigger’).

In a nutshell

Passing is a movie based on Nella Larsen’s 1929 novella of the same title, and is shot entirely in black and white, as a stylistic tool to accentuate and at the same time blur the differences in skin tone. Even though the story is set nearly 100 years ago in the United States, the themes of racism and searching for identity and its place in society are current and as relevant as ever. Its subtle style, calm pace, and cinematographic aesthetics will most likely appeal to a mature audience. Mature themes, such as implied violence against minorities, make the movie unsuitable for young children and warrants parental guidance for children under 13.

The main messages from this movie are that you can never entirely turn your back on your past and cultural heritage; and that money and comfort do not automatically lead to happiness.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • Exploring and defining your identity.
  • Tolerance and respect for minorities.
  • Awareness of and sensitivity to diversity.

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as:

  • Keeping major secrets from loved ones can become an incredibly heavy burden.