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TIFF 2014 Review: ‘Second Coming’ is an Intriguing if Meandering Portrait of Black Family Life in London

TIFF 2014 Review: 'Second Coming' is an Intriguing if Meandering Portrait of Black Family Life in London

With her film debut “Second Coming”, playwright Debbie Tucker
Green has created an intriguing if meandering portrait of an ordinary London
family torn apart by the miraculous and the unexplained. Nadine Marshall plays
Jax, a woman married for over twenty years to hard-working railway worker
husband Mark (Idris Elba). Ever since having their first child JJ (Kai Francis
Lewis), now 11, the couple have grown distant, partly due to experiencing
four traumatizing miscarriages.

And yet, when we meet Jax, we learn through vague, cryptic
conversations between her and a friend that she’s several weeks pregnant,
despite being told by doctors that she can never conceive again. She and Mark
have not been intimate in months, she hasn’t had any affairs, and as she struggles
to come to terms with her mystery pregnancy, her relationship with both her
husband and her precocious young son implodes.

Throughout the gloomily shot feature there’s a constant sense
of impending doom – Jax repeatedly has ominous dreams in which she’s drowning,
overtaken by a deluge of water. But while the film is not lacking in atmosphere
and tone, it’s sorely lacking in plot. The intimate scenes of daily family life
are charming, thanks to the overall chemistry between the three leads, but they
ultimately don’t add up to much.

Instead of the numerous scenes of Jax and Mark staring silently
and moodily at one another from across the dinner table, scenes of the family
eating breakfast on bed on weekend mornings, or hurriedly getting ready for work
and school on a Monday, the narrative would have been helped enormously by more
scenes where the situation at hand – that is, the immaculate conception – was
actually addressed head on.

Instead, there are a lot of ambiguous allusions to the pregnancy
itself, as the core relationships continue to deteriorate. There’s also very
little explanation as to why this is happening – all elements of the
supernatural or the religious are for the most part avoided in an effort to
uphold the movie’s gritty, hyper-realistic style.

While in many ways the film presents a refreshing, honest
glimpse at black family life, with Idris Elba in one of his more thoughtful
performances, the story ultimately takes too long to make its point. It
meanders in a way that is rarely engaging, but more frustrating – unfortunate,
since with a great cast, beautiful cinematography and a fascinating premise, it
had a lot of potential. 

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