Second Coming (Film Movement, NR)

It’s certainly not the straightforward kind of storytelling you find in mainstream Hollywood releases.


One of the central beliefs of Christianity is that of the virgin birth—basically, that Mary became pregnant and gave birth to Jesus without having had sexual relations with her husband or any other man. My apologies to any theologians if I didn’t state the doctrine exactly correctly, but I think I got the basic gist of it. More to the point, a miraculous event accepted by the faithful as part of an origin story for their religion may not wear as well in the real world of today. In other words, when a woman says that she is pregnant and yet has not been with a man, your first thought is not likely to be “It’s the Messiah!” but that she either has a poor memory or is just not telling the truth.

Jackie (Nadine Marshall) finds herself in just that uncomfortable position in Debbie Tucker Green’s film Second Coming—she’s pregnant despite not having had relations with her husband Mark (Idris Elba) during the time period when the baby would have been conceived. Adding to the tension is the fact that Jackie has suffered miscarriages in the past (with one surviving child), so the couple had given up on having more children.

OK, how would you react? Mark is not at all pleased—as far as he is concerned, the only explanation is that another man is the father, and, therefore, his wife has been unfaithful to him. Jackie’s sister also lives in the world of the everyday and logical, declaring that either Mark fucked her in her sleep, she’s gone bonkers, she’s not really pregnant, or there’s something she’s not telling. The couple’s son JJ (Kai Francis Lewis) is looking forward to having a little brother or sister, without understanding the dynamics of this particular pregnancy, but finds himself caught in the crossfire between his parents.

One of the things I like best about Second Coming is the view it offers inside the world of an ordinary, middle-class British Jamaican family. Mark works for the railroad, Jackie in an office, JJ goes to school, and they live comfortably together in a nice home with a grassy park nearby. No crime, no drugs, no abuse, and until Jackie’s pregnancy upsets their perfectly normal existence they interact like any family, with lots of teasing as well as obvious love for each other. Title cards announcing the progression of weeks keep the fact of the pregnancy in your consciousness, but otherwise, you could almost forget about the central fact of the story and think you were watching a naturalistic, slice-of-life drama about a family.

Second Coming is the film directorial debut of Debbie Tucker Green, who is well known in Britain as a playwright. She displays a keen understanding of cinema, presenting the world of the central characters in fragments, mixing significant and everyday moments, and telling the story more through visuals than dialogue. It’s not entirely naturalistic, either—Jackie seems to have delusions or hallucinations at times, and her sanity comes into question, raising the possibility that perhaps she’s not as reliable a witness as she initially seems to be.

Some viewers may find Green’s style overly elliptical, and it’s certainly not the straightforward kind of storytelling you find in mainstream Hollywood releases. In this film, ambiguity is a feature, not a bug. If you like arthouse films, however, and are up for one that’s a little different, then Second Coming is definitely worth a look. It was a hit on the festival circuit and was nominated for a BAFTA (for Green, as a debut director). Final reason to see it—it examines unplanned pregnancy, including the possibility of not carrying a child to term, with an honesty I have truly never seen in an American film.

The only extras on the disc are a short film (10 min.) by Jess Dela Merced, “Wait ‘til the Wolves Make Nice,” the trailer for Second Coming, and trailers for some other Film Movement films. | Sarah Boslaugh

Nadine Marshall, Idris Elba, Debbie Tucker Green, Second Coming

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