Second Coming is award winning playwright and screenwriter Debbie Tucker Green’s debut feature film. And with that she becomes only the fourth Black woman to have a film distributed in the UK. With Black representation on British screens needing greater visibility, and not the isolationist sort of Luther programming (black protagonist – no visibly black friends, lovers or family), Second Coming is a refreshing drama with a family who speak with patois inflections, showing a rare on-screen glimpse into everyday life for 2nd generation migrants from the Caribbean.
But don’t call it a Black film. After all, soap operas and block busters with all white casts aren’t called ‘white films’ are they?
Jackie (Nadine Marshall) is a forty-something mother in a clerical job living in a leafy London suburb with construction worker husband Mark (Idris Elba) and their 11 year old son JJ (Kai Francis-Lewis). The revelation in this haunting psychodrama is that Jackie is pregnant, despite being told she would never conceive again. The flux in this narrative is that Jackie and Mark have been chaste for several months so the question is between choosing whether an immaculate conception has taken place (as the Biblically themed film title teases) or whether “stubborn” Jackie is refusing to disclose an absent lover’s identity even to her best friend Bernie (Sharlene Whyte).
The same way Mark is shut out by Jackie, the audience is shut out by the film in way of an affirmative answer. Which is fine. The film uses the domestic dilemma to explore the Jackie and Mark’s supremely loving relationships with their nature-boy of a son JJ, who revels in bird scouting in the woods and there is great symbolism with his efforts to heal a damaged Crow. The fantastic performances by the headlining family trio, masterfully orchestrated by Tucker’s theatre sensibilities are propped by a stellar supporting cast of best friend Bernie, Nadie’s facety sister and her loving Jamaican parents who very necessarily brighten the film’s damp mood. It’s also SO good to see Llewella Gideon of fan-favourite and influential TV comedy series The Real McCoy on the screen again.
A number of scenes of storm rain-showers in the bathroom with Jackie exemplify the multi-layered narrative that forces the audience to make its own mind about the film’s outcome. Is it a dream, a fantasy or a vision? Is it an ablution baptism or a cataclysmic flood (or just bad plumbing?)?
Nadine Marshall’s performance is as intense and controlled as it is evasive. The audience remains ambivalent towards Jackie without her ever losing sympathy. And Idris Elba makes the audience a conduit for his own frustrations having no place to receive any definitive answer.
Even days after viewing, the film whilst not necessarily being “enjoyable” in its entirety due to the bleak nature of the family’s ordeal with uncomfortable moments, keeps nudging at the judgements of the viewer, shedding light on parts that initially fell in the shade. The ending is fantastic and young Francis-Lewis’ performance also gives cause to optimistically celebrate a potentially phenomenal future in cinema. Idris Elba’s star billing should mean that more people watch Second Coming, but the truth is that he is just one of a fine ensemble cast.
By Wasif Sayyed (@)
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