Second Coming


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Second Coming
"Nadine Marshall delivers a performance of quiet intensity."

One of the reasons the Virgin Mary is often seen as heroic stems from the fact that a woman who became pregnant without explanation in that time and place would have suffered a great deal of social approbation. There's a tendency for people to treat this as if it's an indicator of a primitive society, but is ours really much better? Second Coming looks at a woman in an ordinary 21st century London family who is facing a similar situation. Quite what has happened to her is unclear; although it is suggested at one point that she believes she is carrying the Second Coming of Christ, the film wisely steers away from drawing any firm conclusions. The focus is on her social situation and the impact of the pregnancy on her and her loved ones.

In the central role of Jax, Nadine Marshall delivers a performance of quiet intensity. Her distance means the film is difficult to connect with at first - viewers are shut out just like family members - but over time, with the camera frequently lingering on her face, we develop an acute sense of the turmoil Jax is going through. Pregnancy is never a private experience and the constant pushing from other people - friends, husband, state-appointed therapist - threatens her already fragile mental health. Marshall gives her a dignity that acts as rebuke even when Jax is silent. Sometimes it makes this troubled woman seem like the only sane character in the story.

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Idris Elba provides solid support as the husband but knows when to stem back, never letting his natural charisma dominate what is ultimately Marshall's story. He effectively balances anger, jealousy and confusion - naturally believing that his wife of 20 years has cheated on him - with a vulnerability that makes it clear that claims there's nothing left between them are lies.

With actors like these in the central roles, it's hard for the supporting cast to stand out, but Kai Francis Lewis still makes his presence felt as the existing child caught in the middle, excited about the prospect of a new sibling but not always sure if he can say so. Subplots involving his own activities and attempts to find a role for himself in the world don't quite carry the weight that they should, but succeed in reminding us that relationships are rarely about just two people, and that whilst children can be terrifying in the abstract - especially when finances are tight - families have a way of muddling through.

With a strong idea at its heart, this is a film that never quite lives up to its potential but the talent involved means it's still worth watching and viewers will be left hoping to see more from Marshall in the future.

Reviewed on: 14 Jun 2015
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A family is shaken by an unexplained pregnancy.
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