Gay German filmmaker Tomas Freiburg (Franz Rogowski, "Great Freedom," "Undine") tries to coax his husband Martin (Ben Whishaw, "Women Talking") onto the dance floor to celebrate the wrap of his latest film, but when Martin demurs, Agathe (Adèle Exarchopoulos, "Blue Is the Warmest Color") steps in. Tomas won’t return home until the next morning, excited to tell Martin he’s had sex with a woman, the infidelity something Martin begrudgingly accepts as his lover’s usual behavior when he finishes a movie, but this time, infatuation and a pregnancy complicate matters in “Passages.”
Laura's Review: B-
Cowriter (with frequent collaborator Mauricio Zacharias)/director Ira Sachs’s ("Keep the Lights On," "Frankie") unconventional love triangle is a portrait of a self-involved emotional manipulator which is emotionally true but dramatically predictable. Sporting a slight lisp and an open-weave wardrobe, Rogowski exhibits the type of cajoling charm that keeps lovers around longer than an outsider would understand, his status as a revered filmmaker an additional draw. But the triangle is off balance from the beginning, Martin worn down by the behavior Agathe, a schoolteacher, is experiencing for the first time.
While Tomas is telling Agathe he is falling in love with her, he is still returning to Martin and feeling unsettled by signs that Martin may be moving on. He joins Martin and publisher Clément (William Nadylam, "Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore") with his new literary find Amad (Erwan Kepoa Falé) in a Parisian bistro and finds the former boring and the latter arrogant. He’ll be thrown more off balance when, after moving out, he barges into his old apartment only for Amad to emerge naked from his former bedroom. Agathe’s pregnancy is pitched to Martin as the chance to form a family. But when Agathe’s parents (Caroline Chaniolleau and Olivier Rabourdin, "Taken") visit, her mother Edith questioning Tomas about his marriage to a man and sense of responsibility to her daughter and the unborn child, we empathize with her concerns amidst Agathe’s uneasiness and Tomas’s prickliness. Then there is the question of a country house owned by Martin and Tomas which Martin wishes to sell and where, on a supposedly convivial weekend, Agathe overhears something from an adjoining bedroom which gives her pause.
Sachs has staged believable situations in a variety of colorful locations (apartments, film sets, printing houses, schoolrooms), but we always know where the flirtatious Tomas, serious Martin and naïve Agathe are headed. As Ahmed says to Martin, ‘I feel sorry for both of you.’
(“Passages” is being released unrated after receiving an NC-17 rating for an extended sex scene featuring Whishaw’s pumping buttocks.)
Robin's Review: B
Tomas (Franz Rogowski) and Martin (Ben Whitshaw), long married, have that marriage put into jeopardy when Tomas, at the spur of the moment after a spat with Martin, has an affair with Agathe (Adele Exarchopoulos). This will soon turn their happy marriage into bad in “Passages.”
Love triangles in movies usually follow a routine of two men vying for a woman, two women vying for a man or some variation thereof. Here we have one man vying for the attention of a man, his husband Martin, and a woman, Agathe. For Tomas, it is a case of a man who wants his cake and eat it, too. And, you cannot do that.
If writer-director Ira Sach’s intent with “Passages” is to do a character study of a reprehensible, self-possessed and selfish man, Tomas, who cares more about himself and his own self-gratification than his spouse or his lover, he hits it out of the park. The study proves that Tomas is without redemption and deserves any comeuppance he gets.
Sachs plays his characters well in his reversal of the protagonist/antagonist roles with Tomas, the main figure, NOT the hero of the story. His arrogance and uncaring nature makes him the bad guy here. The good guys, Martin and Nadja, are less prominent in the story, but I like their arc and their role in Tomas’s comeuppance.
Of course, my sympathies align with Martin and Agathe, two people who deserve better than a man like Tomas. (Be warned: there is graphic male sex depicted, just so you know – not a spoiler.)
Mubi opens “Passages” in NY and LA on 8/4/23, expanding nationwide on 8/11/23. Click here for play dates.