When I saw the title ‘Second Coming’ placed alongside its one-line synopsis, “A look at the life and struggles of a family living in London” I was both intrigued and bemused and those feelings stuck with me throughout the film right to the very end. The title suggests an overt religious overtone whilst the synopsis appears to be a description of a gritty piece of realism – the two just don’t fit.

Theatre fans will know debbie tucker green (who apparently insists on spelling her name in all lower case) from her acclaimed plays, like ‘Random’ and ‘born bad’. ‘Second Coming’ marks her first feature-length cinematic outing as writer-director, and it buzzes with the same fragmented and distorted framework that characterises her stage works.

While watching ‘Second Coming’ I was immediately struck by similarities to works by the late playwright, Sarah Kane. There is an urgency and frustration about modern life but also a stillness and poetic licence that both Kane and green merge so effortlessly. There is something raw and direct in their fractured poetry and internal monologues that seems to lay bare the characters’ emotional lives with the kind of psychological complexity that you expect of a novel but rarely find on the stage, or indeed in a feature length film.

Despite the obvious talent for mixing the real and the surreal I wonder to what extent this approach works for cinema-goers and fail to see that it would be a box office hit as there is no real structure or reasoning to the film.

I’m still scratching my head in bemusement which although may not be necessarily a bad thing, I wonder how much the average cinema goer is willing to work for a grasp on the film’s narrative, plot and meaning, she definitely asks a lot from her audience.

Jackie affectionately referred to as Jax played by Nadine Marshall is a DSS worker in London. Despite their seemingly loving relationship, she’s reluctant to tell her husband Mark (Idris Elba) that she’s pregnant. She’s hiding something, which her colleague and best friend Bernie (Sharlene Whyte) assumes is that she’s cheated on Mark. But Jax is adamant that isn’t the case – and though we never hear it from her lips, the film’s title makes it clear who she really suspects is the father of her child. However, there is not a hint of religion either directly or indirectly, simply implied by the title and the apparent lack of knowledge as to who the father could be.

Marshall, Elba and the very young and talented Kai Francis Lewis – who plays their son, JJ – are endearing as a regular family who love each other but find it difficult to talk about their problems. It’s in the depiction of their bonds that the film’s strengths lie. It’s very banal, very normal and for the most part seems to have no real plot, merely just a peek into the ordinary lives of an average London family.

The slow place is also its downfall: Jax’s lack of action – until the very end, that is – means the story stagnates. It had me asking what am I watching, what is going to happen? There is a tense build up which is achieved perfectly through the lack of dialogue and long close-up shots of the character’s faces – this shows how well Green has adapted her style to the medium of cinema – these long languid shots would not work on stage yet here they give an insight into the psychological aspect of the film’s underlying narrative.

So, through careful watching and with the handy hint from the title it becomes clear (almost clear anyway) that green is looking at the idea of Immaculate Conception as we understand it as a religious reference in the context of modern day London. The problem I have, is why?

I’m happy for films to be non-linear, to not be black or white in their storytelling but I failed to see any kind of metaphor to the story. For me, I want to know what the writer/director is driving at in order to feel I’ve gained something from watching the film. If the characters never address what is happening via dialogue and the audience gains no religious references through metaphor or allegory or any other method for that matter what is green trying to achieve?

Amid the scenes of tedious realism – the family eating dinner, visiting their extended family, having tit for tat arguments and being tucked into bed – there are a few surreal scenes jammed in for our pregnant protagonist Jax. Nosebleeds and huge storms and showers of torrential rain in her bathroom juxtapose with the rest of the film. These are the scenes that stood out to me as a portrayal of mental anguish, perhaps psychological illness – but she isn’t delusional, she is indeed very heavily pregnant and seems to have no clue how or why.

The ending is faintly ridiculous and once again offers the audience no real conclusion or resolution.

Of course, there is the possibility that I have either entirely missed the point or I am over analysing. I suspect, green doesn’t want her audience to fully grasp the meaning or perhaps more interestingly she is hoping for viewers to find their own interpretation of her film.

It’s easy to become a little exasperated with green’s style of indolent, fragmented narrative process and at times gauchely atmospheric depictions of seemingly meaningless scenes, 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 shots are beautiful and intense and Elba, Marshall and Kai Francis Lewis all portray the recognisable human trait of splitting what we say and reveal on the outside versus what is bubbling under the surface.

I’m still trying to puzzle it altogether, and perhaps that is the aim of the game in this bizarre yet very real feature length.

Movie Review: Second Coming
2.5Overall Score
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About The Author

Emily Stockham

Emily is from South London and has a degree in English Literature. Emily is a marketing assistant who writes about films and music in her spare time. Horror and grindhouse are her thing - although she will happily watch anything if it means a trip to the cinema.