A relatively OK live triangle drama overshadowed by controversy over its NC-17 rating.


Runtime: 01:31
A gay couple’s marriage is thrown into crisis when one of them impulsively begins a passionate affair with a young woman.

A gay filmmaker causes strife in his marriage when he begins an affair with a woman in . Tomas Freiburg () is a German-born filmmaker living in Paris with his English printer husband Martin (). After Martin leaves early from the wrap party of Tomas' latest film, the latter ends up hooking up with school teacher Agathe (). The prospect of being with a woman excites Tomas, whose marriage with Martin had become stagnant. However, despite Tomas' intentions to be with Martin and Agathe, tension and jealousy soon build up.

Passages Synopsis

Passages is a drama co-written and directed by Ira Sachs (Married Life, Little Men) starring Franz Rogowski (Freaks Out, Victoria) as German filmmaker Tomas, who enters into a bisexual love triangle with her longtime husband Martin, played by Ben Whishaw (Women Talking, No Time to Die), and school teacher Agathe, played by Adèle Exarchopoulos (Blue is the Warmest Colour). At one point, Tomas breaks up with Martin to move in with Agathe, with the latter moving on with a relationship with writer Amad (Erwan Kepoa Falé). However, Agathe soon begins to feel strife when Tomas makes an effort to reconcile with Martin.

My Thoughts on Passages

I'll begin by addressing the elephant in the room, since Passages received attention for all the wrong reasons, as the MPAA gave the film an NC-17 rating, resulting in distributor Mubi deciding to release the film unrated. Presumably, the reason for this rating is an extended, yet non-graphic, gay sex scene in the movie, which is similar to what happened with Blue is the Warmest Colour, co-starring Passages‘ Adèle Exarchopoulos, a decade ago. I'm not going to delve too much more into this controversy, other than stating that the MPAA's treatment of sexual content, particularly involving LGBTQ+ characters, remains quite prudish.

Controversy aside, Passages is a relatively OK love triangle drama. Right from the opening scene, Franz Rogowski's Tomas, whose character speaks with a slight lisp, isn't a particularly likable protagonist. Tomas is unable, or unwilling, to see the harm his affair with Agathe has done to his relationship with Martin. Confused both emotionally and sexually, it seems that Tomas ultimately wants to be in a bisexual throuple with both Martin and Agathe, but he fails to take their individual desires into consideration.

The film builds up to a heartbreaking pair of scenes, where the emotional games Tomas has played with both Martin and Agathe have serious repercussions. By the final freeze frame of Passages, you are both able to feel some empathy for Tomas, while also being sure that gets exactly what he deserves.

Trailer for Passages

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How to Watch Passages

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Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly is a freelance film critic and blogger based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.