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Review | The Pass: ‘An affecting reminder of the human cost of homophobia in football’

By Will Stroude

Since the tragic suicide of Justin Fashanu in 1998, there have been no openly gay players, past or present, in the world English football. Even as officials slowly wake up to the fact that having no openly gay players in 2016 is more than a little odd, the prospect of a player coming out still seems like a distant dream. And with a reported three-quarters of football fans having heard anti-LGBT abuse at a match, you can understand why players aren’t taking the risk.

With stunning performances by Russell Tovey and Arinzé Kene (who speaks to Attitude in our brand new January issue), The Pass lays a relationship between two professional footballers bare, confronting audiences with the reality of how isolating and damaging the closet can be – even if you’re (relatively) fortunate enough to share it with somebody else. Adapted from the John Donnelly play of the same name in which Tovey also starred, as pressure mounts on professional football to end its homophobia problem once and for all, the film provides a timely reminder of a very real people who lie at the issue’s centre.

Set in a hotel room across three defined acts, The Pass follows Jason (Tovey) and Ade (Kene) as they try to balance their internal struggles with their career ambitions. Aware that if one of them is noticed by a talent scout in the first game we see them prepare for, they could be split up, both insist that it’s every man for himself on the pitch. The pair’s juvenile banter is underpinned with a chemistry that makes the film all the more gripping, while the free-hand camera work creates a level of intimacy that brings you right into the sexually-charged room.

As the film charts that night’s events over ensuing years, we see how outside pressures take their toll: We see the ugly side of self-loathing manifest as Jason becomes increasingly obsessed with his public image. Knowing the public and media pressure put upon Justin Fashanu before he tragically took his own it’s easy to empathise, even if Jason’s actions aren’t always honourable. By the time he and Ade are reunited, the demons that haunt them are plain to see.

All in all, The Pass is triumphant in delivery of its message and value for entertainment. Dynamic and heartfelt, the story builds on not only social issues surrounding the football world but also age-old and universal themes of romance.

Rating: 4/5

The Pass hits UK cinemas on 9 December. Watch the trailer below:

You can read our interview with The Pass’s Arinzé Kene in Attitude’s January issue, available to download now and in shops Wednesday (December 7).

Print copies are available to order globally from


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