Magic and realism combine like Jamaican patois and cockney English in Debbie Tucker Green’s debut feature. The result of this composite equation is a compelling, atmospheric, and wholly original film.
Set in the suburbs of South London, Second Coming pertains to the definitive meaning of that phrase, without Marshall’s un-expecting mother (Jax) explicitly stating anything miraculous about her pregnancy within the film’s 105 minute running time. Instead, the narrative’s focus remains on the triumvirate of performances from Nadine Marshall, Idris Elba, and their 11-year old son, Kai Francis Lewis.
Suitably, the strength of Second Coming is in its performances, which Green’s directorial style demands a great deal from. Elba is required to tone down some of his strengths in order to play a struggling, but essentially good father and husband. Marshall is a women scarred by her own emotional battles with pregnancy; JJ (Kai Lewis) is her only child from five pregnancies, and it is in Lewis that the high quality watermark of performances is sealed.
The intriguing editing of the film hacks away at time, periodically dropping in on this ordinary family at various stages in Jax’s unordinary pregnancy. Like Richard Linklater’s Boyhood (though the timeframe here is 9 months rather than 18 years), the moments which Green’s camera does drop in on aren’t particularly important in and of themselves. Instead, they provide a complete picture of this family’s everyday life: preparing food, visiting family, and the drawn out tension – and corresponding bursts of frustration – that play out in between.
All the while, and to the frustration of her friends, Jax remains unwilling to open up about her pregnancy. Is there another man? Is she anxious about losing it? Or is the answer something altogether more metaphysical? Answers aren’t particularly forthcoming, and Green isn’t interested in teasing audiences with clues either.
For some viewers, the lack of emotion portrayed by Jax – the film’s central character – could prove testing. Though this sanitization of overt feelings, and the whole process of bottling things up inside, becomes a theme that is explored in the film. With one of the most uncharacteristically melodramatic scenes coming as Elba vents his anger and confusion toward the ‘elephant in the womb’.
Certainly from what is on offer here, it’s clear that Green has the original perspective and flair for cinema that is going to yield an interesting collection of films.
Second Coming is released in the UK on 5 June 2015.