Debbie Tucker Green’s remarkable film Second Coming deals with the intersection of realty and religion. Many would say the film has qualitative not only thematic links to such diverse works as Ken Loach’s Kes and Carl Dreyer’s Ordet.
The film often uses the slow reveal to tell its story. A rather large clue’s in the film’s title but it’s not until the late scene above when lead character Jackie, played by Nadine Marshall, confronts her therapist and the viewer with the fact she’s due to give birth to an immaculately conceived child.
Jackie, husband Mark (played by Idris Elba), and their son JJ (played by Kai Francis Lewis) form an initially normalised and caring family unit. There are hints of past familial tensions including Jackie’s repeated miscarriages, making JJ a miracle child of sorts.
Adult friends. Jackie and her dear friend Bernie (played by Sharlene Whyte). Jackie can rely on Bernie for constant support despite the latter being unable to understand the former’s apparently self-destructive behaviour.
Childhood friends. JJ is at a special time in his life, for a short time he can even still rely on girls as friends without additional complications. Hopefully the frame grabs above show how beautifully Urszula Pontikos shot the film, this scene giving a vivid, halcyon, sense of childhood and its long playful summer nights.
Feathered friends. Well, friends of sorts as JJ and his bird’s relationship starts out better than it ends up. I’m not sure of a figurative reason for the violent pivot in boy and bird’s relationship (other than perhaps mirroring his mother’s potentially destructive behaviour to nature under her care) but the broad comparisons to Ken Loach’s Kes, including the boy finding solace in nature and responsibility, are quite clear.
We constantly return to the opening in the woods: earlier where JJ captures life, above where JJ and Jackie discuss life, and below where Jackie contemplates life.
Again, I’m not sure of the figurative nature of some these scenes such as the opening in the woods (specifically if they correspond to biblical texts) other than them providing an oasis of calm.
Visions are more clearly associated to biblical texts. We’re initially unsure of what Jackie is experiencing in these scenes, in the very first instance we believe her experiences may be corporeal such is the subtle juxtaposition between realism and surrealism. In addition to the cinematography the sound design should be commended—the ominous metronomic dripping of water, then blood.
Many scenes have neither surrealistic or mysterious goings on and are fully relatable without any background processing. Mark’s brutal confrontation of Jackie on realising he cannot—conventionally—be the father of Jackie’s child shows an anger and frustration common in many domestic situations. But of course this is no conventional domestic situation, as with her friend Bernadette, Jackie can’t explain her situation to her husband Mark even if she wanted to.
Scenes like this show social realism is at the film’s heart with the religious aspects’ primary purpose being to allow an innovative perspective on these matters.
The film sees husband and wife reunited of sorts, or at least there is deeply implied acceptance of one another and their, or Jackie’s, child. And it turns out this child has a rather more favourable effect on a familiar feathered friend’s health than her brother. The bird’s role perhaps isn’t as central as Inger’s in Carl Dreyer’s Ordet but it’s still a miraculous event!
A remarkable British film. Sadly I don’t believe this film received wide cinematic distribution despite positive reviews and famous cast members. One can only speculate a reason for this, but implied throughout this blog post I can wholeheartedly recommend watching on DVD or video on demand—details are on the official website linked below.
Reference: Second Coming – official website