My Days of Mercy

 

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A drama in which a love story is overshadowed by other central issues.

 
My Days of Mercy

Ellen Page and Kate Mara

  

By far the best thing in this film is the performance by Ellen Page - she absolutely holds the screen throughout and for her it is something of a triumph. However, there are other players who do well too: Kate Mara, Amy Seimetz and the child actor Charlie Shotwell. Less happily, My Days of Mercy is a film in which the acting is decidedly superior to the screenplay. As written by Joe Barton this screen original encounters problems in two distinct ways.
 
Although the title puts the emphasis on Mercy, a young lawyer played by Mara, even more central to the tale is the character of Lucy, Page’s role. Lucy lives with her older sister, Martha (Seimetz), and with their young brother (Shotwell). Neither parent is in evidence and before long we learn that the father (Elias Koteas) is on death row and is there because he was arrested for stabbing their mother. Even so, it is thought that the father is innocent and, with a date some four months ahead having now been set for his execution, attempts are still proceeding to prove his innocence.
 
These further investigations naturally add an element of suspense to the story. However, the fact that the sisters are in any case staunch advocates against the death penalty (they regularly join in demonstrations when executions take place) leads to that issue taking on a central emphasis here. Ironically, Mercy comes into the story as somebody who also attends these demonstrations but does so in support of the status quo. Nevertheless, what develops is a lesbian love story showing how Lucy and Mercy are drawn to each other despite having totally opposed views regarding the death penalty.
 
One problem born of this for the film is that this social issue is so weighty that it makes it inappropriate that the love story should be so much the centre of attention. Another problem lies in the fact that Tali Shalom-Ezer’s direction fails to find the forward momentum that the fight against time to prove the father’s innocence requires. Furthermore, as things are the pacing is too slow - it would be fine as a means of enabling the characters to be established in more detail, but for that to work the dialogue would need to be less superficial. Unfortunately, Barton’s weaknesses show up both when he is trying to blend the two storylines and in his limited ability to give the characters real depth. It’s comparative, of course: My Days of Mercy is perfectly watchable, especially given the quality of the performances with Page in particular delving beneath the words to communicate the underlying emotions. But the longer it goes on (and at 108 minutes it does seem over-extended) the more one becomes aware that another writer could have made us care so much more and might even have found a way to right the imbalance between the love story on the one hand and the dominating issue of capital punishment on the other.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Ellen Page, Kate Mara, Amy Seimetz, Elias Koteas, Charlie Shotwell, Brian Geraghty, Beau Knapp, Tonya Pinkins, Jake Robinson, Jordan Trovillion, Bishop Stevens, Denise Dal Vera, Lisa DeRoberts.

 

Dir Tali Shalom-Ezer, Pro David Hinojosa, Kate Mara, Ellen Page and Christine Vachon, Screenplay Joe Barton, Ph Radek Ladczuk, Pro Des Maya Sigel, Ed Einat Glaser-Zarhin, Music Michael Brook, Costumes Amela Baksic.

 

Killer Films/Lexis Media-Signature Entertainment.
108 mins. UK/USA. 2017. Rel: 17 May 2019. Cert. 15.