Passing is a Perfect Film

Carley Moore
2 min readNov 29, 2021


That moment when Clare slips, jumps, or is pushed out of the window by her husband says more to me about bisexuality than most anything else I’ve read or watched. How close she is to Irene at that moment. How close she is to freedom. How close she is to her own queerness. How close she is to no longer having to pass.

And then she’s gone.

To me, my bisexuality has always felt like falling, like a failure, like giving up, a leap into the air, and then nothing.

Quicksand and Passing by Nella Larsen were two of my favorite books in graduate school. They are still very dear to me, and I suppose I was afraid to watch the movie, for fear of having it ruined or displaced somehow by it becoming a visual object.

Some books come into your life and speak to the underside of you, to something you can’t even name yourself, but years later might uncover. These books were early maps.

Watch this movie for the looks that Clare and Irene give each other.

Watch it for the black and white film, the composition, the scenes that blur and the ones that come into sharp focus.

Watch it for the conversations about race that we are still having and not having. The arguments between Irene and Brian, her husband, about how to talk to their boys about lynching and racial violence.

Watch it for how much can unfold inside of houses. The interiority of almost every scene, the characters, the apartments, the houses, the parties, and the hotel room.

Irene asleep on her bed dreaming of Clare sitting next to her, only to wake up to Brian instead.

Irene grabbing Clare’s hand behind her back while no one else can see.

The tangle between Clare, Irene, and Brian.

A teapot that breaks in anticipation of the breaking to come.

If Carol is for lesbians, then Passing is for bisexuals.

Carley Moore

Prof type, single mama, and disabled queerdo // Books: The Not Wives; 16 Pills; Panpocalypse (March 2022)