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June 3, 2015
In an age where film studios are so desperate for money they increasingly rely on concepts over story —Yes, Mad Max, I’m looking at you — it’s surprising to see a film entirely based on its concept reject it with such vehemence as Second Coming does. Imagine a Spider-Man film where Peter Parker gets bitten in the first minute but doesn’t cast his first web until the final five and you’ll be along the right lines here.
Written and directed by award-winning playwright Debbie Tucker Green, Second Coming tells the story of how Jackie (Nadine Marshall) discovers that she’s pregnant. The kicker? She hasn’t had sex in months; not with her husband, Mark (Idris Elba), not with anyone else.
It’s a decent premise, especially considering the talent involved – the film is produced by Idris Elba as well – but this only makes it all the more impressive in just how far it falls short of its intentions.
There’s an unmistakeable student film vibe here. A concept that should have been restricted to a short film, stretched to a hundred and five minutes of such banal tedium that it almost makes you think it’s something personal. No doubt Second Coming was meant to be a slow burner, but for the most part, any semblance of heat is extinguished by the plodding monotony of the story.
The fact that Jackie hasn’t slept with anyone for months isn’t addressed until the last stretch of the film, and for the most part we’re subjected to a sad-sack of a woman who wallows so much in self-pity that she loses any sympathy we might have for her when things start to take a turn for the worst, once Mark finds out her secret.
The other characters don’t escape unscathed from this slack focus either, with Idris Elba woefully underused as her husband. Permanently vest-clad, he at least manages to add a modicum of unpredictability to this all too predictable story, but his character has so little to do, we’re mostly just left to look at his biceps for the entirety of the film. The third member of the unholy trinity is their son, JJ (Kai Francis Lewis), whose sole purpose seems to be that of giving the film’s bland atmosphere some semblance of the supernatural.
And this is really the most bizarre thing about Second Coming. It’s only mentioned once in a passing comment during a tediously long therapy session, but apparently Jackie believes her unborn child is the second coming of Christ. This might be an understandable belief in some women, but there is not one hint of faith in every hour-long minute of the film. We’re given no reason to believe that she’s religious, but for some ill-advised visions of raining indoors, so it’s a jarring thing to hear, and even more bemusing that it’s not mentioned again after.
This problem just underlines what a grand lack of cogency the film possesses. It’s so long and meandering that you have to wonder whether Green actually wants to reach her destination at all. And by the time we finally do get to the one potentially interesting thing the film has to offer, the time’s nearly over and you’re so fed up with the characters that you just want her to give birth and be done with the entire miserable thing.
Ultimately it’s unclear what, if anything, the film is trying to say. It flounders around in the well-trodden travails of middle-aged parenting but fails to come up with anything remotely interesting or unique to say on the subject. And if there ever was an aim at creating some supernatural tale, then, it would have been better advised to build up an atmosphere of the extraordinary, rather than the ordinary we’re subjected to here.
The whole sorry mess is best exemplified in the final moments, where all subtlety is thrown out of the window and clichéd symbolism is thrust right into our faces. If you’re interested in mysterious pregnancies, the better option is to give new American TV drama Jane the Virgin a whirl.
Second Coming is released in UK cinemas on May 5th