Sundance movie review: Toxic 'Passages' is relentlessly miserable

Adele Exarchopoulos and Franz Rogowski star in "Passages." Photo courtesy of Sundance Institute
Adele Exarchopoulos and Franz Rogowski star in "Passages." Photo courtesy of Sundance Institute

Jan. 27 (UPI) -- Passages, which premiered Monday at the Sundance Film Festival, is about the damage a toxic narcissist can do. Unfortunately, it makes the audience feel as bad as his victims.

Tomas (Franz Rogowski) is a film director in Paris living with his husband, Martin (Ben Whishaw). At his film's wrap party, Tomas sleeps with a Agathe (Adele Exarchopoulos), his first time ever with a woman.


A gay husband discovering sex with a woman could be provocative drama. Instead, Tomas is so insufferable, every character is better off without him.

Tomas is not sincerely exploring anything. He's just doing what feels good, chasing new highs and rubbing it in Martin's face.

Then when Martin says, "Do what you need to do, but don't tell me about it," Tomas goes and whines to Agathe. He's entirely too needy, any way to look at him.

Tomas is so needy, he's petulant when he doesn't get his way. He's so petulant that subtitles on the virtual Sundance platform even describe the noises Tomas makes during a fit as "petulant."

And Tomas just keeps going. He meets Agathe's parents and treats them just as dismissively.


To his credit, Rogowski captures the smug entitlement of a person like Tomas. Tomas probably believes himself every time he changes his mind and begs Agathe or Martin to take him back.

Both Martin and Agathe open their lives to Tomas and suffer for it emotionally. Passages is sympathetic towards both of them, even if every single example of Tomas's behavior is a red flag.

Writer/director Ira Sachs seems to recognize this. Sachs at least has supporting characters see through Tomas.

Tomas ultimately keeps secrets from both Martin and Agathe that hurts the other.

Give Passages credit for being relentless. It doesn't pull punches or try to explain away Tomas's behavior, but Tomas is a lot to take for 90 minutes.

Fred Topel, who attended film school at Ithaca College, is a UPI entertainment writer based in Los Angeles. He has been a professional film critic since 1999, a Rotten Tomatoes critic since 2001 and a member of the Television Critics Association since 2012. Read more of his work in Entertainment.

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