By Miranda Schiller @mirandadadada
What would happen if a middle-class woman in London were pregnant with the second coming of Jesus via immaculate conception? If Debbie Tucker Green’s The Second Coming is to be believed, nothing much. There’d be an argument with the husband, a best friend worrying about her mental condition, and the woman in question refusing to talk to anyone about it.
A synopsis, in most cases, does not tell you the whole story of the film, it just presents the setting and the initial problem. Not so here. Even though it is known from the beginning and it’s in the title, it takes up the whole film just to develop this one-sentence storyline: Jackie is pregnant even though she has not slept with her husband or anyone else for years.
Her stubborn refusal to answer any questions results in long scenes of her tetchily repeating “oh you know nothing” or just angrily staring on the table, until the other party, be it her best friend, husband, mother or sister, just gives up. It makes for frustrating watching and certainly tests the audience’s patience. But somehow it does succeed in keeping enough mystery alive to sit through the seemingly endless non-arguments in hope for it all coming together in the end – which it thankfully does.
With the story being told so slowly, it feels more like the portrait of the family at times, brilliantly performed by the three core family members. Idris Elba as the husband, balancing a short temper with a reasonable and loving disposition and increasingly helpless in the face of what looks like his wife’s slow mental breakdown. Despite of them never really talking to each other, the husband-wife dynamic between him and Nadine Marshall, who is the quiet and hostile leading character Jackie, never allowing anyone, including the viewers, to know what she thinks, or to decide whether it’s all in her head or not. But even so, she keeps her character interesting enough to make us want to follow through her development. And finally, their eleven year old son (Kai Francis Lewis) who guesses about the baby and about his mother’s fragile mental state without anyone telling him anything. A bright and sweet boy, more interested in watching birds in the local park than his school homework, and seemingly the only thing in life that can inspire smiles of happiness in both his parents (though rarely at the same time).
The interactions of the three main performers and the clever cinematographic depiction of their daily life balance the frustrating elusiveness of the story itself, and ease the contrast between the mainly hyperrealist domestic scenes and sudden, unexplained and hardly commented scenes of supernatural occurrences like repeated rainstorms in the bathroom.
Nonetheless, this contrast works in favour of the film: The biblical, spiritual or supernatural elements of the story are not explicitly mentioned, but always underlying in very earthly and profane circumstances, adding an interesting tension to otherwise tedious scenes of normality.
Second Coming is in cinemas now, it was released June 5th. Released on DVD July 6th.