Passages review: Ira Sachs shines with his complicated love triangle drama

Franz Rogowski and Adèle Exarchopoulos appear in Passages by Ira Sachs, an official selection of the Premieres program at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Guy Ferrandis / SBS PRODUCTIONS


Ira Sachs, who directed the critically panned film “Frankie” in 2021, has made a stunning comeback at Sundance with the insightful and suspenseful film “Passages.” The movie explores the complex dynamics of a narcissistic relationship and its aftermath, offering a brutal and astute commentary on a type of person who is alarmingly recognizable to many of us.

Narcissistic Relationships on Full Display

In “Passages,” the film director Tomas (Franz Rogowski) is married to the artist Martin (Ben Whishaw), but he is constantly seeking more. He meets Agathe (Adèle Exarchopoulos), a teacher he encounters at a pub, and his lust for her transforms into his idea of love. As Martin’s ambivalent openness fades into disdain, the story unfolds into a devastating portrayal of the suffering caused by narcissistic desire.

Tomas is a classic example of a egotistical narcissist, preoccupied with his own desires and completely insensitive to the needs and feelings of others. He recounts his encounters with Agathe with blatant pride, but as his relationship with her deepens, he becomes completely consumed by his own emotional needs, causing pain and suffering for everyone around him.

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Ira Sachs’ Expertise in Complex Relationships

Ira Sachs has a proven track record of exploring the complexities of relationships in his past works, such as the humanistic family drama “Little Men” and the exquisite yet realistic story of older gay commitment, “Love is Strange.” “Passages” is a departure from these earlier works, offering a far darker and more devastating look at the suffering some people may cause when they are preoccupied with their own desires.

The character of Tomas, played by Rogowski, is reminiscent of Reynolds Woodcock from “Phantom Thread,” with his petulant and self-centered behavior. Both characters are irresponsible in their relationships and concerned with their own work, but while Woodcock is a petulant and picky dressmaker, Tomas is a film director who is constantly on the prowl for more.

Hazy Plot with a Shocking Payoff

Ira Sachs is a careful writer, and he and co-writer Mauricio Zacharias leave the details of the plot hazy at first. However, their faith in their writing and their readers pays off with an ever-worsening cycle of broken hearts and a steady trail of destruction that becomes difficult to ignore. Despite being emotionally restrained, the film is explicit, with one gay sex scene that is among the most uninhibited in popular cinema.


“Passages” is a thought-provoking and emotionally intense film that offers a brutal and astute commentary on the destructive nature of narcissistic relationships. Through its exploration of the complex dynamics of desire and relationships, the film offers a shocking and eye-opening look at the suffering that can result from preoccupation with one’s own needs and desires. Whether you’re a fan of Ira Sachs or a newcomer to his work, “Passages” is a must-see film that will leave you thinking long after the credits roll.

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