The Pass is a dark, emotional and claustrophobic insight into football shown through the eyes of Jason, a closeted footballer.
Russell Tovey is excellent as Jason, especially as we see him initially as the cheeky, working class character he often plays in TV comedies such as Him and Her. However, this likeability soon diminishes. We see his character develop over time expressing sexism, racism and homophobia while in public he suppresses his sexual feelings towards other men.
The tension between Jason and his friend and fellow footballer Ade (Arinzé Kene) builds to their first kiss — the pass. This moment and the choices they subsequently make partly define who they become.
The film explores Jason’s life over the next ten years. The three different hotel rooms that provide the setting give the film a claustrophobic feel and allows the intensity of emotions between the characters to play out. We hear their sexual bragging and stories of racism in football. Ultimately we learn how far Jason will go to keep his secret. The warmth and love between the friends takes a darker, twisted turn as the story plays out. The film is gripping from start to finish as we discover the impact of their decisions and the effects on their fame, fortune and success.
The Pass is an adaptation of the 2014 play by John Donnelly, which also starred Tovey, at London’s Royal Court. It reflects the fact there are still no out gay male professional footballers in the English league.
Most sports fans in England, Wales and Scotland say they would be comfortable with their club signing a gay player. One survey found that 82 percent of supporters would have no issue with a gay player. However, 8 percent said they would stop watching their team. In addition, about half of all sports fans say they have heard homophobic abuse at events.
What are the lessons of The Pass? Nottingham Forest and Norwich City striker Justin Fashanu remains the only out gay professional footballer to have played in the top flight of English football. In 1990 he was going to be outed by a British Sunday newspaper which had compromising pictures of him in a gay bar. Justin ended up selling his story to The Sun in order to have more control over it. In 1998 Justin hanged himself.
The Pass gives an important insight into such homophobia in the “beautiful game” and the oppression of the locker room. Don’t pass up your chance to see it.