Mixed-race childhood friends reunite in middle class adulthood and become increasingly involved in each other’s lives and insecurities. While Irene identifies as African-American and is married to a Black doctor, Clare “passes” as white and has married a prejudiced, wealthy white man.
The term “passing” refers to the practice of members of minority or oppressed races, religions, ethnic groups, etc., pretending to be white (or otherwise members of the majority culture) to escape prejudice. The writer/director of this movie, Rebecca Hall, is better known as an actress; although she has almost only ever been cast as white characters, she is part African American. In a 2018 interview with Deadline, Hall said, “I came across the novel at a time when I was trying to reckon creatively with some of my personal family history, and the mystery surrounding my biracial grandfather on my American mother’s side. In part, making this film is an exploration of that history, to which I’ve never really had access.”