Though the title references the second coming of Jesus Christ, this debut drama by playwright-turned-director Debbie Tucker Green largely keeps Christianity out of the story, which is concerned with a Londoner’s unexplained pregnancy and the effect it has on her life and her immediate family. Suggestions of a miracle or an immaculate conception taking place are present, but are generally and suggestively left on the periphery, with Green choosing instead to concentrate on the familiar: first and foremost this is a kitchen sink drama (occasionally, like last year’s Glassland, in a literal sense), although there are some flights of fancy as pregnant Jax (Nadine Marshall, excellent) experiences strange, watery visions in her bathroom. Aside from those jarring and increasingly-disturbing interjections it’s a film that is firmly rooted in the routine of modern life: cooking, eating, sleeping, working, Sunday lunch with family, and so on.
We follow Jax’s entire term from start to finish, and obviously as a result the narrative occasionally skips forward several weeks or months at a time. She can offer no explanation for the pregnancy to those around her and can’t seem to find any answers from medical professionals. Jax’s 20-year relationship with railway engineer Mark (Idris Elba, every bit as good as we have come to expect) is partly characterised at this point in time by its lack of a sex life, something that Mark is struggling to accept, and somewhat understandably their lack of intercourse during the previous months informs his reaction when he hears the news that she is expecting. It’s also revealed that she has had four miscarriages in the past, though the couple have had one child together, the 11-year-old JJ (Kai Francis Lewis, also very impressive). So it this a miracle, or is Jax repressing an earlier unseen assault, or is there some other explanation? The ambiguity never dissipates, and it informs the mood of Green’s film throughout.
The majority of scenes take place in Jax and Mark’s house. Occasionally the action shifts to Jax’s place of work (a benefits office), or her car, while there are several passages that follow sensitive, nature-loving JJ that are set in a nearby park or heath. These bucolic interludes provide the film with its most obvious birth- and rebirth-related symbol – a wounded bird that also has its own miraculous story – while they also make for an interesting contrast to the majority of London-set films I’ve seen recently, which seem to go out of their way to cram as many recognisable locations in as possible, perhaps trying too hard to turn the city into a living, breathing character. Cinematographer Urszula Pontikos uses a lot of close-ups, both inside and outside of the family home, and these block out a lot of the contextual information with regard to location or the immediate environment of the characters, but more importantly they allow us to study the character’s reactions to certain lines and events without being distracted. Second Coming is, after all, a character-driven piece.
There are moments that jolt and surprise: a bitter row between Jax and Mark takes place off-screen, and throughout the camera rests on JJ, who isn’t allowed to leave the room even when his parents’ heated discussion descends into points-scoring; Jax’s aggressive, awkward sister Sandra (Seroca Davis) briefly enters the fray on a couple of occasions and acts like the proverbial bull in a china shop; and there are the aforementioned ‘visions’ that Jax experiences in the bathroom. The rest of it may be a little slow for some tastes, and many viewers who do not live in London will probably struggle with the London Afro-Caribbean dialect (or, to give it its more general and academic term, MLE); but those who give the underseen Second Coming a try will be rewarded with an engrossing family story and a trio of strong acting performances by the three leads.
Directed by: Debbie Tucker Green.
Written by: Debbie Tucker Green.
Starring: Nadine Marshall, Idris Elba, Kai Francis Lewis.
Cinematography: Urszula Pontikos.
Editing: Mark Eckersley.
Running Time: 103 minutes.