The Passage

By Fabien Montagner | Drama
A young girl travels out of time, then reveals a dark moment about her family history.

Faustine is a young teenage girl staying with her grandfather while her father is away working. Surly, bored and withdrawn, she doesn't engage when her grandpa tries to share their family history, but Faustine isn't interested.

Looking to get out, she takes the dog, Max, for a walk. Max runs off, and Faustine chases after him, leading her to an abandoned train station, where she encounters a strange old man. In search of Max, she enters a railroad car. But when she comes out, she's transported back in time, where she witnesses a hidden act of violence from a war she's only known from history books -- and her only hope to get back to the present comes from a past she has never really known.

Written and directed by Fabien Montagner, this thrilling, suspenseful short historical fantasy has a richness and grandeur to its storytelling, giving its short runtime the feel and fullness of a feature. Similar to its main character's journey, it transports viewers back into time, with an engrossing story, compelling performances, beautifully crafted visuals and resonant emotional themes.

This is storytelling with cinematic ambition, leveraging all the tools of the craft to create an atmosphere of mystery, enchantment, peril and excitement. The writing gives viewers exactly what they need to understand the character, with a brisk but smooth pace that flows the narrative from one key point to the next.

There's not a lot of detail in the dialogue, but the visuals -- from the detailed production design of the grandparent's home to the striking images of a modern but nondescript town -- gives us the sense of Faustine's world. Actor Cindy Colpaert's initial portrayal captures how Faustine wants nothing to do with any of it. Solitary and self-isolating, she's content with her headphones and her bedroom.

The film may begin with a vein of muted naturalism, but when Faustine wanders off to find her dog, the storytelling takes an elegantly spooky, portentous turn, its fluid camerawork and effective score creating a captivating sense of changing dimensions. From there, viewers will be hooked, as both we and Faustine witness a dark secret from her familial past. It's a tense, chilling encounter that leads to a collision between life and death -- and between the strength of the past and the hope of the future.

"The Passage" is a story with magic at the heart, both in its plot and in its emotional impact. The story features time travel, but it's also about family history, ancestors and the role these play in our sense of selves. Faustine is transformed by her encounter from the past, coming face to face with old traumas hidden in her personal history. But in doing so, she recovers something she didn't realize she was missing: a part of her own identity. She, too, is the continuation of a larger story -- of someone else's dreams for the future, where a family would continue to grow, evolve and flourish long past their own lifetime. Finally connected to her past, Faustine has a way forward into the future, anchored by a strong foundation of hope and love.

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