Clair-Obscur on Netflix: a powerful drama on racism with Ruth Negga and Tessa …

For her first film as a director, Rebecca Hall signs “Clair-Obscur” and is interested in the complex relationship of two women in the twenties against a background of racism and identity crisis. Watch only on Netflix.


In New York in the 1920s, a black woman sees her life turned upside down when she reunites with a former childhood friend who is now posing as white.

Clair-Obscur, a film written and directed by Rebecca Hall.

Available on Netflix


Well-known and recognized actress, Rebecca hall go behind the camera with Chiaroscuro. She thus adapts the eponymous novel by Nella Larson, published in 1929, and brings together a beautiful duo of actresses: Tessa Thompson (Creed, Thor: Ragnarok, Sorry To Bother You) and Ruth Negga (Loving, Ad Astra). Both give the reply to André Holland (Moonlight, High Flying Bird) and Alexander Skarsgård (Big Little Lies, True Blood). The first plays the husband of Irene (Tessa Thompson), the second that of Clare (Ruth Negga).


Controversial novel when it was published in 1929, Passing by author Nella Larson becomes a film. Rebecca Hall swaps her actress costume for that of screenwriter, producer and director. It offers an adaptation which, nearly a century after the publication of the book, retains all its relevance in a society which has nevertheless changed a lot.

In Chiaroscuro – French version of the title -, Irene, a black woman and mother in New York in the Roaring Twenties, finds a childhood friend. The latter, Clare, masquerades as white in the hope of escaping prying eyes. A troubled and contradictory relationship begins between the two women.

For AlloCine, Rebecca Hall talks about the difficulties of setting up a project like Chiaroscuro :

It is no coincidence that Rebecca Hall falls in love with this story. The actress’ grandfather was African American and has impersonated himself on numerous occasions. For her first film, the Briton questions the way each person sees their own identity, their roots and the question of performativity – a sociological concept which designates the fact that a person plays a role to meet the expectations imposed on him.

Thus, the character played by Ruth Negga ignores the racist remarks of her husband, played by Alexander Skarsgård, to perfect her role of the white wife, denying her real origins. More than a story about the color of skin and the hatred of others, Chiaroscuro is above all a film about happiness. Although radically opposed by their choices of life, neither of the two heroines manages to really flourish in their respective daily lives. They both find themselves prisoners.

Clair-obscur on netflix: a powerful drama on racism with ruth negga and tessa...

Ruth Negga and Alexander Skarsgård in “Clair-Obscur”.

Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga compose, with strength and great finesse, opposing characters. As for Rebecca Hall, she offers a sober, graceful staging and a contemporary reading, as if to underline that the time of history ultimately matters little as long as the emotions remain timeless. The ending infuses enough ambiguity to leave the viewer with many questions and interpretations.

For her very first feature film, director Rebecca Hall wins her bet hands down. It brings to light a work and an author too often forgotten. Thanks to its release on Netflix, the film Chiaroscuro escapes an overly confidential theatrical release and has a real chance to meet its audience.

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