Set in London, we peer into the world of the Jax (Nadine Marshall), her husband Mark (Idris Elba), and their young son JJ (Kai Francis Lewis). Making ends meet and living a relatively comfortably life in the process, on the surface this family have little to worry about – though behind the facade lies a series of intricate complexities that trouble – and threaten – the marriage at hand. Jax is pregnant and unsure of keeping the child – which causes a friction in her relationship, particularly given the array of miscarriages the pair have had to go through in the past.
At its core, Second Coming is an intimate, earnest and astute depiction of a family dynamic, picking up on all of the idiosyncrasies and nuances of a somewhat relatable household, full of repressed feelings. Both Marshall and Elba display a broken marriage so sincerely, pragmatically and most importantly, so subtly. There aren’t significant, thunderous confrontations, but instead we get a sense for their deep rooted despondency in their well-judged body language and the subtext that exists. It’s what’s not said, rather than what is.
It’s also intriguing how little the audience know, as we’re put in a similar situation to that of Mark. We understand Jax is pregnant and we know she wants rid, but we don’t know why. Is she afraid her marriage isn’t strong enough to justify having a second child? Is it somebody else’s? Or perhaps, as the title alludes to – is it an immaculate conception? While that remains a mystery, what we can be completely sure of is how magnetic Marshall’s performance is. However, Jax is not quite endearing enough to fully get behind. You want to sympathise with her and relate to her, but she makes it difficult to do so. Imperfection in our protagonist is vital, as being flawed seeks only in making the characters more human – but Jax is too much of a struggle to root for, which proves to be detrimental to proceedings.
Nonetheless, it doesn’t take too much away from this moving production that marks what could be a prosperous career in film for Green. It’s said that director Steve McQueen’s next project is to embark on a television drama series depicting black culture and identity in contemporary London – and it’s fair to say that the recent Oscar winner will have his work cut out bettering this particular endeavour.