*debbie tucker green prefers to be referred to in lower case.
Second Coming is British playwright debbie tucker green’s debut feature about black British woman Jackie (beautifully played by Nadine Marshall) and her impending pregnancy, the trauma and psychological impact this incites (haunting nightmares and visions) and her relationship with her nature-loving son Jerome (Kai Francis Lewis) and her brusque husband and rail worker Mark (Idris Elba).
At the core is the ‘second coming’ – Jackie is pregnant after being told she can not conceive again after the birth of Jerome- the problem is confounded in that she has not been near her husband for months and neither does she have a lover. The film then takes a look at how this impacts on her family and herself.
debbie tucker green is best known for her plays about black British characters with Caribbean heritage. Random her 2012 play, was adapted for TV and Dirty Butterfly, a look at domestic violence and its affects on those witnessing it, recently finished a short run at the Young Vic. Often her work includes characters repeating lines of dialogue to try and exert different meanings, usually providing a sharp narrative contrast with more naturalistic exchanges- similar techniques are used in this film. Verbal Jamaican patois sparring and sometimes fast exchanges where character’s lines repeatedly overlap each other, provide relief against scenes that are more naturalistic, confounding our initial expectations that we are in for a social realist drama. It does what it does for theatre, and hints at the inner lives of the characters and their turmoils- the sequences are very enjoyable to watch.
However sometimes its meaning is a little opaque. It is nearly 3/4 of the way into the film before Mark is told about the baby by Jerome, who has miraculously found out- an event that is not given screen time. Jackie is not religious- and although she suffers nightmares and visions that include her bathroom being turned into a monsoon, there is no hint that this is a biblical related event. Thus we are left asking, is the pregnancy a divine intervention or is Jackie mad? Yet none of these ideas are given serious screen time.
The film has some well observed and detailed domestic scenes, especially a long take focusing on Jerome as he witnesses his parents arguing and tussling with each other to gain favour with him. But some of the initial set up scenes, whilst nicely expositional, are too much so and feel superfluous. There comes a moment where the audience ‘gets it’ and does not need more information- I was longing to get to the nitty gritty and grapple with the issues and ideas behind the film that were just waiting to be let out.
A promising debut, Second Coming is a hint of a talent that with film maturity, will have a lot to offer. Certainly it is refreshing to see a British film about a black British family that does not involve the usual gangland or crime problems. It also introduces some fine talent to the screen, not least with child actor Kai Francis Lewis who gives a marvellously mature and heart felt performance.
Second Coming screens tomorrow at the London Film Festival, book here