You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Toronto Film Review: ‘Second Coming’

Idris Elba and Nadine Marshall excel in Debbie Tucker Green's oblique, engrossing psychodrama.

Nadine Marshall, Idris Elba, Kai Francis Lewis, Sharlene Whyte.

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2837296/

For her intriguing feature-film debut, “Second Coming,” playwright Debbie Tucker Green poses a bold question  what if a modern-day, middle-class British woman found herself miraculously pregnant?  and then takes the even bolder step of having her characters hardly ever directly address it. Offering a fine showcase to a very fine cast (Nadine Marshall, Idris Elba, Kai Francis Lewis), Tucker Green certainly isn’t shy about testing her audience’s patience. And while she can sometimes get a bit too enamored with her own moody, elliptical atmospherics, there’s clearly a unique imagination at work here, and her film’s final shots offer worthwhile rewards for those who are willing to stick with it.

Though its title and one-line synopsis give viewers an idea of what to expect, plot-wise, “Second Coming” takes at least half of its running time to lay its opening hand on the table. With chapters demarcated by the weeks for which protagonist Jackie (Marshall) has been pregnant, the film opens on Jackie’s tense lunch date with a coworker (Sharlene Whyte). Though they never refer to the procedure by name, we quickly come to understand that Jackie is asking advice on whether or not to have an abortion, and only gradually realize why.

After the birth of her now-11-year-old son, Jerome (Francis Lewis), Jackie was told she’d never be able to conceive again. What’s more, it’s been months since she last slept with her husband, Mark (Elba), and she has no other lovers.

As mentioned, the film takes quite a long time to parcel out this information, but wastes none in thrusting the viewer into intimate quarters with its three central characters. Mark is a blunt yet garrulous railway worker  an occupation not too far removed from carpenter  who seems to be a loving father but a somewhat less reliable husband. Son Jerome is a quiet, gimlet-eyed boy who spends his time scouting out birds in the surrounding woods, and always seems to know more than he lets on.

Though she occupies the film’s focal point, Jackie is something of a closed book as a character. Without any obvious religious faith or an angel Gabriel to offer her solace or explanation (the film as a whole contains almost no overt Christian references), Jackie must deal with the domestic recriminations and social stigma of her unexplained pregnancy alone, and she does not respond well to the pressure. Marshall does astute work with the role, however, her performance always maintaining audience sympathy even as her character does everything possible to repel it.

In a series of unhurried, believable domestic scenes, we see the three watch movies, fix meals, subtly defuse arguments and visit extended family, while Jackie grows ever more standoffish as she secretly processes the strange things happening to her, including  in the film’s only deviations from plainspoken realism  unexplained nosebleeds and a recurring hallucination of a rainstorm in her bathroom.

It’s easy to become a bit exasperated by Tucker Green’s languid, fragmented narrative process, but she maintains a consistent loose rhythm throughout, instilling confidence that she knows how all of these jagged fragments and oblique motivations will eventually fit together.

The director asks quite a bit from her cast, shooting extended exchanges in long, unbroken takes, and they deliver. One nearly three-minute shot locks down on the motionless Jerome as he watches his parents argue offscreen, and Francis Lewis displays some remarkably sustained restraint for such a young actor. Elba’s performance is sophisticated enough to draw on his leading-man charms when necessary, while also suggesting undercurrents of a more brutish, unpredictable character within.

Cinematographer Ula Pontikos’ lensing makes the British setting’s overcast dampness palpable, though the abundance of cold blues and grays sometimes lends a strange clinical sheen to otherwise naturalistic scenes.

Toronto Film Review: 'Second Coming'

Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Discovery), Sept. 6, 2014. Running time: 105 MIN.

Production: (U.K.) A Film4 and BFI presentation of a Hillbilly Films production. (International sales: Protagonist Pictures) Produced by Polly Leys, Kate Norrish. Executive producer, Katherine Butler.

Crew: Directed, written by Debbie Tucker Green, Camera (color), Ula Pontikos; editor, Mark Eckersley; music, Luke Sutherland; production designer, Lisa Marie Hall; sound, Kieron Wolfson; re-recording mixer, Ben Carr; visual effects supervisor, Adam Rowland.

With: Nadine Marshall, Idris Elba, Kai Francis Lewis, Sharlene Whyte.

More Film

  • 'Diego Maradona' Review: The Football Legend

    Cannes Film Review: 'Diego Maradona'

    You expect the director of a biographical documentary to have a passion for whoever he’s making a movie about. But the British filmmaker Asif Kapadia spins right past passion and into obsession. He doesn’t just chronicle a personality — he does an immersive meditation on it. Kapadia plunges into the raw stuff of journalism: news [...]

  • Atlantics

    Emerging Talent From Gallic Cinema

    Variety is teaming with Unifrance, an agency that promotes French cinema around the world, to focus attention on four emerging talents in the French movie industry as part of Unifrance’s “New Faces of French Cinema” program. Here Variety profiles the rising filmmakers: Justine Triet, Eléa Gobbé-Mévellec, Hafsia Herzi and Mati Diop. Mati Diop Born to [...]

  • John Hannah Reunites With ‘The Mummy’

    John Hannah Reunites With ‘The Mummy’ Actors for Horror Pic ‘Lair’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    John Hannah, Corey Johnson and Oded Fehr will star in “Lair,” billed as a socially conscious horror movie about an LGBT family embroiled in one man’s attempt to prove the existence of the supernatural. The trio all appeared in the successful franchise “The Mummy,” and their new picture goes into production later this year. Katarina [...]

  • Loving Vincent Animation Oscars

    Adult Audience Animation: Cannes Panel Talks Big-Screen Strategy

    CANNES–A panel of leading animation industry executives gathered during the Cannes Film Market on Sunday to shed light on their strategies for the theatrical release of adult-oriented animated features. It was a timely conversation at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. Five of the 28 animated projects in the Marché du Film are adult audience-focused, including [...]

  • Lea Drucker poses with the Best

    French Filmmaker Axelle Ropert Readies 'Petite Solange' With MK2 Films (EXCLUSIVE)

    French writer/director Axelle Ropert is set to direct “Petite Solange,” a film that will star Léa Drucker and Philippe Katerine, who won the best acting nods at this year’s Cesar Awards for their performances in “Custody” and “Sink or Swim,” respectively. MK2 films will handle international sales. Haut et Court has acquired rights for French [...]

  • Dutch FilmWorks Moves into International Sales

    Dutch Film Works Moves into International Sales (EXCLUSIVE)

    A major new international sales outfit is coming to market. Dutch Film Works (DFW), one of the largest movie distributors in the Benelux region, is moving into film and TV sales. DFW general manager Angela Pruijssers will spearhead the sales effort alongside Charlotte Henskens, who will join from Amsterdam-based Fortissimo Films, where she is director [...]

  • Gullane Taps The Match Factory, Bitters

    Gullane Taps Match Factory, Bitters End for Karim Ainouz’s ‘Neon River’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    Gullane, the Brazilian producer of Marco Bellocchio’s Cannes competition player “The Traitor,” has linked with production partners for anticipated projects by two of Brazil’s highest-profile auteurs: Karim Ainouz and Fernando Coimbra. In further news, Luiz Bolognesi, writer-director of Annecy winner “Rio 2096,” is leading “Senna,” Gullane’s biggest movie project to date, a live-action biopic of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content