My Days of Mercy - May 2019
Romantic drama directed by Tali Shalom Ezer and written by Joe Barton.
Shalom Ezer said the appeal of the story was in its reliability and hopefulness; despite the discouraging conditions, she sees the film showing “the transformative healing power of love.” I concur.
Synopsis: The daughter of a man on death row falls in love with a woman on the opposing side of her family’s political cause.
* SPOILERS AHEAD *
I have a few things to say about this movie. Brace yourselves.
My Days of Mercy showcases some of the most credible on-screen chemistry between polar opposites Lucy (Ellen Page) and Mercy (Kate Mara) amidst a harrowing plot centring around Lucy’s father, who is facing death by lethal injection after being accused of his wife’s murder.
I remember hearing about this movie back in 2018 and I couldn’t wait for its release - the trailer had me hooked, as most features starring Ellen Page normally do. May 2019 came and I had another prolonged wait because, as predicted, this lesbian-themed movie wasn't playing in mainstream cinema, which was very handy. After all, who wants to walk five minutes to their local cinema when they could travel an hour into central London instead. Fortunately, in November 2019 it was available on Amazon Prime, and I was not disappointed.
It had everything I wanted in a lesbian movie; an interesting and poignant plot, raw emotion, convincing chemistry, two beautiful women, sensual love scenes (not one, not two, but three) and an adequate amount of humour amongst the bleak plot.
Although the character’s meeting is a little unusual, being on opposing sides regarding their views on capital punishment, I feel that the movie portrays both sides in a delicate and considered manner as both women voice their feelings on the issue without criticising each other's personal experiences and morals on the subject. As a viewer, I feel that you empathise with both points of view, but this is, of course, a subjective topic.
The undeniable spark between Lucy (Page) and Mercy (Mara) was on another level and I was fully immersed in their connection. Perhaps that was due to the actresses being good friends in real life, and when questioned about their love scenes in an interview, both women stated that their friendship made those scenes easier to perform and, in turn, were comfortable enough with one another to allow themselves to feel more vulnerable. How adorable.
As my mind wanders, I can’t help but think that if I were ever in that position, and I was told that today’s scene would involve squeezing and licking your best friend’s nipple… well, I’m not quite sure if I could do it and then not feel awkward afterwards. I mean, that’s probably why I wouldn’t make a very good actress but… actually, tell a lie, back in my college days I did set up a little lesbi-photoshoot and I got myself involved on the other side of the camera too. So who knows, maybe I could;
Excuse the hair, I couldn’t afford anything during my student years, let alone an on-set hairstylist.
To this day, I still can’t fathom how I managed to convince four of my friends to take part in an all-kissing, scantily clad, semi-erotic photoshoot. I guess I have the power of persuasion… and some really great friends.
Aside from the love scenes, Page and Mara’s performances were impeccable; Page delivers a truly plausible distraught and vulnerable daughter, as well as a somewhat closeted woman who finds an escape in Mercy. And Mara? Well, she was something else. I have never seen her in anything before, but she sure caught my eye in this movie. Her acting is faultless and those eyes can depict an entire story. I think she could do a whole film with just eye-acting if I’m being honest. Watch it and you’ll see what I mean. In fact, here’s a collage for your pleasure:
Even when you barely see her eyes, you can feel the emotion…
And, well, when they’re closed too.
One of the things I did appreciate is that the movie didn’t focus on the two character’s sexuality in the ‘coming out’ sense. In a way, it doesn’t even come into question - they both like each other and it’s as simple as that. We are informed early on about Lucy’s sexuality, and Mercy seems almost flippant about her own relationship status, revealing that she is ‘in-between boyfriends’ followed by ‘well, I am seeing this guy…’ before the conversation comes to an abrupt end and she spends the rest of the movie initiating the flirtation between herself and Lucy.
On the flip side, I do wish we had been given the chance to see Mercy telling her parents that she was quitting her job at the law firm, breaking up with her boyfriend and going to find the woman that she has fallen in love with. She had kept her true self hidden from them up until this point in her life, so I feel it would have been a nice touch to see her break free from that before going after Lucy.
There could have also been slightly more on the rekindling of Lucy and Mercy’s relationship, rather than leaving it where they did. I wanted to see Mercy make up for the false hope she had given Lucy, even though it was evident that she wanted to be with her.
It wasn’t an unhappy ending, but I felt we deserved that final ounce of happiness that is generally lacking in a lesbian movie, and which we all crave. (I’m assuming that’s what we all want here, it is a love story after all).
Overall, the cinematography was pleasing to the eye, capturing those endless American open roads during various times of day - which, in my opinion, conveyed a metaphorical journey of driving the characters towards their unforeseen destinations.
Natural light is shown throughout, followed by warm orange hues to portray the intimacy during the love scenes, and in contrast, cold blues for the more harrowing scenes inside the penitentiary.
Movies have a tendency to pan the camera around entwined lovers, but the arrangement of a confined space, a stationary camera, and a lack of music provide a vivid realism to the characters in their most exposed state. To me, it seemed like they were the only two people in the world.
In addition, throughout the movie, you’re hit with a bird’s-eye view of a death row inmates’ last meal, which I found tragic yet apt.
On a final note, some may have found the title of the movie slightly too obvious and ‘lazy’ but I thought it was rather clever and fitting, particularly for the main protagonist (Page). It alludes to the movie’s theme as well as being the name of the woman who she inevitably falls in love with - the opposer - and the irony of her bearing that name.
When Lucy and Mercy are driving the long way back to Page's home after attending another protest and the song ‘Mercy’ by Duffy comes on the radio. Mercy tells Lucy to pull over claiming ‘This is my song’. Mercy jumps up and starts dancing, encouraging Lucy to dance with her, much to her disapproval. Lucy stands there awkwardly (like how I feel when I get dragged to a nightclub) and Mercy dances close to her, seductively, before planting a kiss on Lucy’s cheek. Then one thing leads to another… you know the rest.
One of the most heartbreaking moments was when Lucy and older sister, Martha, were told that upon further investigation of evidence, officials had concluded that their father was guilty of murdering their mother, and Martha is still unwilling to accept that this is true. In response, Page delivers an outstanding emotional performance when, after years of hope that her father had been wrongly accused, she was now left heartbroken and deflated.
We are then shown a birdseye view of their ten-year-old brother, Benjamin, in bed with a sombre look across his face after having heard the outburst. Lucy flees the house and Benjamin is left with the sound of Martha's cries.
After a quick conversation, Mercy says that she has to go home. At the same time, Lucy is attempting to tie up her hair, but the hairband breaks. Mercy unties her own hair in a charming fashion - like everything she does - and walks up to Lucy, turns her around and ties her hair up for her. She then leans in and gently says ‘I’ll be thinking about you, Lucy Moro.’
I think I melted at that point.
When Lucy finds out that Mercy has a boyfriend. Honestly, Mercy, what were you thinking?
(Mercy asks Lucy when the last time she got laid was. Lucy responds ‘Two years ago’. Mercy is in complete shock at this information).
Lucy: I’m assuming by your horrified rant that you sex a lot?
Mercy: What?! Oh my god, it’s been so long that you’ve actually changed the word to a verb.