‘The Pass’ could reap BAFTA bids for stars Russell Tovey and Arinze Kene

“The Pass,” a British, indie film about two gay professional soccer players (Russell Tovey, Arinze Kene) who share a kiss one crucial night, was produced by Duncan Kenworthy who oversaw the Hugh Grant classics “Love Actually,” “Notting Hill” and “Four Weddings and a Funeral” (for which he was Oscar-nominated for Best Picture) “Awards would be wonderful, of course,” says Kenworthy, who coincidently is also the vice-president of BAFTA and so, along with his Oscar nomination and years of experience, is well-versed in the awards game. “If reviews are positive, why not?”

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But awards he says, are not everything. “It’s a film which spends so much time focusing on and studying male emotions, which is interesting and important territory greatly unexplored in film.” He can see “The Pass” being used as an educational tool. “This film is a reprimand to the status quo. It talks about and shows everything. Openness is the solution, which is where this film can help. It can shine a light inside these football clubs, which is always a good thing.”

“There’s a wife of a crew member who is a teacher and wants to use it in schools, when she can, in order to show different aspects of masculinity and delve into the under explored subject. We’d be thrilled for this to happen,” Kenworthy assures me, a firm enthusiasm in his voice.

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At the center of “The Pass” is Tovey whose performance is both entertaining and dramatic, full of gravitas, layers and moments of drama to shine. There’s one line, near the start of the film, which Tovey delivers with perfect uniqueness and dramatic ability; ‘will you pass me the ball?’ It’s a moment in which you can see and hear every emotion in Tovey’s character and sums up his performance well.

“I was, in particular, astonished at the layers of his performance,” says Kenworthy. “I honestly can’t think of anyone better, nor anyone who could improve it. His rawness is excellent. He has the skills, connection with audience and growing fan base. He almost reminds me of somebody like Matthew McConaughey – an actor known for light, comedic roles and then suddenly does something very dramatic and absolutely nails it.”

In the UK, Tovey has been known for a certain type of comedic role and has now debunked that by producing a power-house performance packed full of emotion – much like McConaughey in a string of films, none more so than “Dallas Buyers Club” for which he of course won the Oscar.

There’s also another awards-comparison to be made of this film, one which I presented to Kenworthy and he agreed with – the film’s three-act structure is reminiscent of Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay for “Steve Jobs.” Screenwriter John Donnelly adapts from his own play and has nailed the clever, well-executed format of the play for the screen. Awards groups love a successful play adaptation, as we know, with “Fences” a major frontrunner this season.

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Kenworthy talks extensively about how Tovey and co-star Kene transformed themselves physically: “the film was shot backwards, so they started as 29-year olds and then the two spent two weeks over Christmas dieting, shaving and training to turn into fresh faced 19-year olds. It’s almost like different actors in the first and final acts. Truly remarkable.”

Kene was nominated at the British Independent Film Awards and both men are strong contenders at the BAFTAs. Fairly often, BAFTA voters defy what is ‘expected’ of them in regards to voting the way of the Oscars and nominate one of our own instead of a major Hollywood star. “Made in Dagenham” was nominated for Best Supporting Actress (Miranda Richardson) while Andy Serkis reaped a Best Actor bid for “Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll,” replacing the Oscar-nominated Morgan Freeman (“Invictus”) for the last nomination spot. “Nowhere Boy,” “The Guard” and “The Lady in the Van” also are all British films, amongst many others, which didn’t get in at the Oscars but did earn major BAFTA nominations.

“The Pass” is sure to reap at least one bid in Best Debut by a British Producer, Director or Writer. Helmer Ben A. Williams defies the pressure of shooting a play-like film to add energy and verve to Donnelly’s debut screenplay. And from where I’m sitting, BAFTA would be foolish to pass over “The Pass.” I’m sorry, I’ve been holding in a ‘pass’ pun the entire article. I couldn’t resist.

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