Thursday, August 27, 2020

film review: My Days of Mercy

Directed by Tali Shalom-Ezer

Written by Joe Barton

ChinoKino score: C+

Review by Allan Tong

My Days of Mercy dramatizes the death penalty debate through an unlikely relationship between activists on opposing sides of this complex issue. Ellen Page plays Lucy, from a poor, white family in Ohio, whose father has been sitting on death row, convicted of murdering Lucy's mother. His defence is mental deficiency, though he appears (as played by Elias Koteas) to have all his faculties intact.

At a demonstration where she rallies against the death penalty, Lucy meets the too-aptly named Mercy (Kate Mara) whose father is a policeman. Her father who has seen his share of capital crimes and the destruction those criminals have inflicted on the innocent. Mercy represents the pro side of the death penalty issue, so it's unlikely that she falls in love with Lucy, but they do. The strong performances by Page (great as always) and Mara pull it off. If their roles were in lesser hands, I doubt it.

[spoiler alert] Eventually, Lucy and her family exhaust all the legal loopholes to free their father. Even worse, new evidence points to her father's guilt. A distraught Lucy seeks solace in Mercy and drops in on her unexpectedly. Lucy is shocked to discover Lucy with a boyfriend and feels betrayed.

My Days of Mercy offers an intriguing premise and solid performances. However, it suffers from languid pacing and strays from the Lucy-Mercy relationship too often. Cutaways to prison meals next to names and crimes of actual death row inmates act like chapter headings in a book, but are unnecessary. The film feels like a dry verite documentary when it could use more emotion. Given this approach, I have mixed feelings about the overall film, despite its admirable attempt to tackle a thorny social and political subject.

My Days of Mercy is currently available on VOD.

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