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Passing | 2021 | PG-13 | – 2.5.4

content-ratingsWhy is “Passing” rated PG-13? The MPAA rating has been assigned for “thematic material, some racial slurs and smoking.” The Kids-In-Mind.com evaluation includes a couple of kissing scenes, references to infidelity and sex, an accidental death from a fall out of a window without blood shown, discussions of murder and racial violence, and some strong language. Read our parents’ guide below for details on sexual content, violence & strong language.


Filmed in black and white and set in 1930’s New York City, a Black woman (Tessa Thompson) meets an old neighborhood friend (Ruth Negga) who is passing for White and decides to join her occasionally in this deception. After the friend decides to join the woman in Harlem to recapture her African American background, both women are exposed as passing for White. Also with Andre Holland, Bill Camp, Gbenga Akinnagbe, Antoinette Crowe-Legacy and Alexander Skarsgård. Directed by Rebecca Hall. [Running Time: 1:39]

Passing SEX/NUDITY 2

 – A married couple hugs and kisses for several seconds in two scenes and kisses briefly in a few more scenes. Women kiss men on the cheeks in a few scenes and a man kisses a woman on the cheek in one scene. A man kisses a woman’s hand. A man rubs his wife’s thigh as she drives a car and she pushes his hand away.
 A married man and a woman (not his wife) stand very closely together and whisper, as the man’s wife walks in and looks stunned in a few scenes. A man says that sex is a grand joke and his sons need to learn that. A White man says that his White wife is sexually attracted to Black men, to the point of being driven out of her mind. A woman is afraid that another woman will take her husband from her.
 In a dim shot, a woman wears a long sheer nightgown with her back to the camera and we see the outline of her thighs and legs. A woman at a party wearing a low-cut dress reveals some cleavage as she bounces to the music. A woman wears a high-necked backless dress and sways to music at a party.

Passing VIOLENCE/GORE 5

 – A White man shouts and bursts into an all-Black house party and furiously calls a woman a liar as he charges at her with a raised fist; another woman pulls her back, and the first woman falls out the sixth-floor window — the camera cuts to the body lying on the pavement below, sprawled in the snow without any visible blood and two other long shots show the body without anyone near it as people gasp and rush downstairs; we hear sirens, and one woman groans and passes out, the police asks if the woman’s husband pushed the dead woman from the window, everyone says no, and the police calls it “death by misadventure.” A man’s body lies on a sidewalk without visible blood in the summer heat; people gather around as a man says to call an ambulance.
 A Black man tells his preteen sons that a Black man was lynched recently, hung on a telephone pole and shot; the man’s wife objects to the son’s hearing this, but the man says they have to learn and later one son says that the lynched man was tied to a caravan and dragged through a town before he was lynched (his mother gasps and quivers). A husband and his wife argue loudly about racism, raising children and another woman. Two women argue briefly a few times; one of the women sobs in one scene and the other woman sobs and cries loudly, later. Two men argue briefly. A man argues with a woman briefly, twice.
 A white man says that he hates all Black people. A Black man tells his sons that Whites hate Blacks. A light-skinned Black woman says she will pass as White regardless of who gets hurt, in order to get what she wants. A White man stops on the street to greet two Black women, who look frightened and hurry away.
 An older White man at a party criticizes a light-skinned Black woman for passing as White. A Black woman says that her two White aunts raised her after her father died. A doctor at a party says that someone almost died from a fever.
 A depressed woman falls asleep in a chair often during the day and sometimes goes upstairs to lie in bed and nap. A doctor says he is beginning to hate patients and their dirty, smelling families; he often falls asleep in a chair when he goes home. A woman becomes agitated and drops a flowerpot out of an upper story window and a teapot on a floor during a party and it breaks loudly.

Passing LANGUAGE 4

 – 2 anatomical terms, 8 mild obscenities, 7 derogatory terms for African-American people, name-calling (crazy, idiot, silly, stupid, colored, pick-a-ninny, you people, contemptuous, foolish, a mollycoddle, liar, dirty liar, dirty you-know-what, Ethiopian)exclamations (darn it, my goodness, rot), 1 religious profanity (GD), 8 religious exclamations (e.g. oh dear God, good Lord, dear Lord Jesus, God’s Earth, Heavens, Heaven forfend, Lord, what the devil). | profanity glossary |

Passing SUBSTANCE USE

 – A woman drinks alcohol from a flask twice, a woman pours alcohol from a flask into a bottle of soda and into a man’s empty cup, men and women at a party hold glasses of alcohol and we see a carafe sitting on a table and an unopened champagne bottle in an ice bucket, a man sips a drink, a few beer bottles are shown on a table in a club and a woman drinks from a highball glass, and a bottle on a nightstand could be liquid medicine or a pint of alcohol. Two women light and smoke cigarettes in a few scenes, a few men smoke cigarettes, and a woman puffs a cigarette out of an open window.

Passing DISCUSSION TOPICS

 – Racism, passing as White or Black, mixed-race marriages, different American cultures, missing one’s childhood neighborhood, prejudice, hatred, secrets, truth, fear, envy, jealousy, depression, anger, murder, lynching, greed, loyalty, Negro Welfare League, Harlem, jazz.

Passing MESSAGE

 – Secrets, bigotry, and jealousy can be a deadly combination.

CAVEATS

Be aware that while we do our best to avoid spoilers it is impossible to disguise all details and some may reveal crucial plot elements.

We've gone through several editorial changes since we started covering films in 1992 and older reviews are not as complete & accurate as recent ones; we plan to revisit and correct older reviews as resources and time permits.

Our ratings and reviews are based on the theatrically-released versions of films; on video there are often Unrated, Special, Director's Cut or Extended versions, (usually accurately labelled but sometimes mislabeled) released that contain additional content, which we did not review.


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