My Days of Mercy seems to be yet another in a ever-growing list of American indie films that have taken a long time to make it across the Atlantic in some shape or form. Many of them find themselves languishing for quite a while before the UK gets their mitts on them and this one is no exception. Originally making its debut at the Toronto Film Festival in 2017 to decent reviews, it’s almost two years between then and us getting it and, whether that was down to distribution deals, lack of interest or other strange forces, we now have our chance to see it. Was it worth the wait?
The film follows Lucy (Page), a young woman still reeling from events a few years previous when it is discovered that her father (Elias Koteas) is sentenced to death after a long-winded battle with allegations against him murdering his wife. She and her siblings – older sister Martha (Amy Seimetz) and younger brother Ben (Charlie Shotwell) – have fought for years to not just to get the judgement changed but to oppose the death penalty up and down the country, willfully hoping that their actions will see the local governments about turn. At one such protest, Lucy meets Mercy (Mara), but where she is against the death penalty Mercy sees it differently – she believes it to be a just law.
From there, their relationship begins and the initial meetings between the two are wonderfully touching but such is the strange construction of the story that it begins to wane pretty quickly, despite the best efforts of its leads who quite frankly save the film from being a real misfire. There’s a real warmth and connection between the two, able to rise themselves above some of the cornier moments with aplomb and really make this unorthodox “meet-cute” feel like a genuine and touching love story, thanks in no small part to the powerhouse performances from Page and Mara.
It’s just a shame that the narrative loses its way pretty quickly after the two ladies meet, becoming overly tedious and dull after a promising first half. The film, directed by Tali Shalom-Ezer, feels laboured for the most part and it becomes something of a challenge to not drift away from what is unfolding. That isn’t to say it’s a bad film but it just feels underwhelming and despite some flashes of real drama and emotion never really gets out of second gear.
While My Days of Mercy is ultimately a disappointment all in all, it’s worth seeking out for two lead performances that really sparkle and when the two are on-screen together, it makes for some really engaging moments. Sadly, the rest of the film doesn’t quite live up to their brilliance.
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Drama, Romance | USA, 2017 | 15 | 17th May 2019 (UK) | Signature Entertainment | Dir. Tali Shalom-Ezer | Ellen Page, Kate Mara, Amy Seimetz, Elias Koteas, Charlie Shotwell