My Days of Mercy Review

The Plot

Two young women from opposite sides of fierce protests over the death penalty meet on the picket lines outside prisons and form an unlikely friendship. While both deal with their respective personal issues they grow ever closer, leading to dramatic personal revelations, passion and life changing romance.

The Good

My Days Of Mercy is a compelling romantic drama that avoids being merely an issue film. While its death row setting and LGBT themes are important facets in each character’s journey, the film never feels like being only about either ‘issue’. The film also adeptly tackles universal themes of family, unlikely romance and overcoming traumatic grief.

The film makes a very deliberate choice to avoid explicitly endorsing any particular opinions about the death penalty, instead the film does a brilliant job of depicting the true human cost and emotional pain of both sides of the debate. The issue serves as a compelling backdrop for the journey of both central characters, providing contrast and context for their own specific inner turmoil’s. In particular Ellen Page’s character and her resilient family unit serves as a very dramatic illustration of just how emotionally complex and intense the reality of death row is.

Ellen Page and Kate Mara make for an utterly compelling on screen couple, expertly portraying the tension and raw passion that comes from opposites attracting. Page’s character is vulnerably fragile and endearingly shy, while Mara’s bleached blonde upper class character exudes both confidence and a surprising kindness. It’s a testament to the acting talents of both actresses that they are able to pack constant subtext and emotional nuance into even the film’s quieter moments. It’s also worth noting that when the embers of their unlikely romance do finally explode into full on flames their on screen passion is convincingly raw and real.

My Days Of Mercy is a tender and thoughtful piece of cinema that benefits from a well-crafted combination of indie soundtrack and lush cinematography. The film has a calm and compassionate tone that does a great job of treating abstract moral issues as merely one component of character’s lives. Grounding the story and each character in a believable reality allows the film to explore love and loss without resorting to heavy handed melodramatics.

The Bad

Although the film is set against the constant backdrop of the fiercely contested death penalty debate in truth it remains fairly neutral on the issue, focusing primarily on its central love story rather than wading too deeply into direct moral debate. That may slightly disappoint those with strong opinions on the subject who would rather see their views more explicitly endorsed on screen. But it’s a deliberate storytelling choice and in truth the film has little ambition to suffocate audiences with heavy handed moralising.

Likewise while the film’s quiet moments and casual pacing gives it a thoughtful tone and leaves plenty of room for some brilliant acting performances, some people may find this sedate quality less attention grabbing.

The Ugly Truth

My Days of Mercy was a successful addition to TIFF and is now a very fitting opening film for the BFI LGBTQ+ Flare Film Festival. Emotionally compelling subject matter and achingly sincere performances form Ellen Page and Kate Mara makes My Days Of Mercy a memorably passionate and thoughtful love story.

Review by Russell Nelson

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