I wasn’t sure what to make of Debbie Tucker Green‘s, Second Coming. The film is cryptic, fearful of committing to the concepts it puts forward, leaving the audience with more questions than answers by the end of it.
It is the story of Jackie, wife of Mark and mother to JJ, her 11 year old son. They are a middle class family living their day to day lives in London. She is pregnant but Mark and Jackie have not been intimate in months and she has not been with anyone else either. The film counts down the weeks of her mysterious pregnancy as she hides it from her friends and family, trying to decide what to do about it. She reluctantly confides in her best friend before revealing it to Mark. The film uses the depiction of day to day life through the use of repetition to portray the ever growing turmoil Jackie faces as the days go by, while her family slowly unravels after they find out. Every week is the same, they go to work and school, come home and have dinner, spend time with family on the weekends. There are slight differences in their daily interactions that build up the tension within the household with every passing week. To add more strangeness and pressure to the whole thing, Jackie suffers from hallucinations that get stronger and stronger as her pregnancy progresses.
Cinematographer, Urszula Pontikos, and Green adopt a cinéma vérité style which enhances its grittiness, giving the idea that this could be our lives. The viewer is plunged into the centre of the action just in the midst of it taking place. Things don’t begin when the scene begins, they were already taking place for a while before the viewer got there. While I like this kind of story telling, the film seems more intimate, it makes it a bit harder for the viewer to figure out what is going on. Taking about half the scene to catch up, far too long if you don’t want the audience to get frustrated.
What this independent film has going for it is that it stars Idris Elba whose performance is strong as the brooding husband, Mark. But he is eclipsed by Nadine Marshall’s stellar portrayal of Jackie. The film is slow and restrained at times, but she is what keeps you interested.
Despite the good performances, the film is not tenacious enough to hold up against other films in the festival. Second Coming isn’t really about the seconding coming of a Christian saviour. The film’s title suggests something more than it actually is. The concept of immaculate conception and the second coming that supposedly is the focus of the film is hardly even mentioned, it is assumed. If you had no idea what the film was about and if the title were different you would just think this film was about a family dealing with an unexpectedly odd pregnancy. It’s a film about a couple that has struggled to make a family and now they are given a second chance at another child, but fear and doubt threaten to tear the family apart. The problem is Green does not commit to any particular idea. Is the pregnancy a miracle, a divine act, or something different entirely? Green is open to all of the above confusing the audience, leaving them unsatified because there is no follow through on any of the ideas put forward. There is so much potential here but without any commitment by the story teller the audience is left feeling disappointed.