Winning debut from playwright debbie tucker green, featuring Idris Elba
Theatre fans will know debbie tucker green (who spells her name entirely in lower-case letters) 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 quiet ferocity that characterises her stage works.
Jax (Nadine Marshall, who starred in both the Royal Court stage and BBC TV versions of random) 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.
Marshall, Elba and the adorable 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. The time given to JJ's character is particularly welcome; his efforts to nurse an injured crow back to life, for instance, say more about his character than a wordy script ever could. Despite the calibre of his co-stars, Lewis' innocent performance is arguably the film's best.
In Second Coming, green gives herself time to linger on her characters' faces, taking in their expressions and feelings as she keeps dialogue to a minimum. She's adapted to the medium well; this kind of languor is unlikely to translate to stage, but on screen it has lush, inviting beauty. Yet the slow place is also its downfall: Jax's lack of action – until the very end, that is – means the story stagnates. Still, while some might find its conclusion faintly ridiculous, buy into the premise and you'll experience an unexpectedly joyous finale.
Selected release from Fri 5 Jun.