The Passing

By Nichola Wong | Drama
A mortician has the hardest day of her life when someone she knows is on her table.

Amid an arid marriage and a difficult relationship with her mother, Yasmine has her work. She is a talented mortician, able to take the deceased and restore their appearance, making them look their best for their departure into the afterlife.

But one day during her work, Yasmine discovers the body she’s working on is someone she knows from her youth. As she restores the body, memories of her past come to the surface, bringing her face to face with truths that she long thought forgotten.

Written and directed by Nichola Wong, the lucid, graceful short drama is not just a portrait capturing the gift and care of a unique profession, but how the proximity of death often forces the loved ones left behind to find clarity about what’s important about life.

Like Yasmine’s approach to her work — which is an art and craft demanding both scientific acumen and profound emotional sensitivity — the film’s visuals are thoughtful and precise, with an elegance and poeticism that can seem abstract in their beauty, especially coupled with the sparse dialogue. But the beautiful images are married to a resolute focus on Yasmine’s interior life, particularly as her memories begin to resurface.

The past weaves in and out of Yasmine’s present moment: working on the body’s hands sparks remembrance of hands during a fateful piano lesson, when a young Yasmine encounters Ellie. Yasmine and Ellie’s developing friendship blossoms, captured in a quietly rhapsodic, sun-soaked cinematic idyll, and it’s a pleasure to watch, full of emotional and sensory happiness.

Just the memory of it begins to shift something frozen inside the mature Yasmine, especially as she confronts her long-buried grief and regrets as she works on Ellie’s body. The ensemble cast of the film — led by actor Natalie Radmall-Quirke as a grown-up Yasmine, along with the actors playing the younger versions of Yasmine and Ellie — has profound sensitivity, portraying the thrum of first love and the way it echoes years after both women have married others and lived full adult lives.

As Yasmine says goodbye to her first love, it also returns something to herself, which helps her move forward. “The Passing” is about this interplay between past and present, and between loss, love and life. It captures the art of mortuary science as the profound way of honoring the passage between life and death, helping people transition from one to another with dignity and care. Similarly, it honors the journey we take from regret to awakening, embarked upon when we look at our suffering directly and transmute it into wisdom.

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