If someone was to pitch you a film about an intimate romance set against the backdrop of a death-penalty drama, you’d probably expect it to feel super-contrived, so it’s practically a miracle then that My Days of Mercy turns out as good as it does. The first US feature film for Israeli filmmaker Tali Shalom-Ezer centres on two characters, Lucy (Ellen Page) and Mercy (Kate Mara), who are both on seemingly opposite sides of the political spectrum when it comes to the death penalty, with the father of Mercy advocating it while Lucy’s father is awaiting his execution in prison. As they both find solace in each other, a burgeoning romance emerges, and the chemistry between the two leads is the movie’s greatest strength.
The movie’s approach to the romance is nuanced and naturalistically portrayed as these two women start out as seemingly troubled individuals, as soon as they lock eyes with each other for the first time and start to bond, their gestating concerns and ideologies bubble to the surface. The interchanges between the two characters feel naturalistic and engaging, and that is all down to the extremely talented duo of Ellen Page and Kate Mara.
Page and Mara, being such good friends in real life, were both itching to do a film project together for quite a long time before finding this one, which led them to not only star in the film but also produce it. Their friendship and hard dedication is reflected on screen and Page and Mara’s chemistry is electric, warm and intimate, resulting in a believable romance that provides this film its beating heart and soul. It feels like the role of Lucy was tailor-made for Page, and she perfectly conveys the sense of a young woman who’s lost the ability to have a normal life due to her father’s predicament, while Mara does a great job at being more adventurous and free-spirited, which perfectly contrasts yet complements Page’s performance so well.
The rest of the drama involves Lucy’s family problems, whether it’s to do with the on/off relationship with her sister (played brilliantly by Amy Seimetz) or her dreading the impending demise of her father and its anti-death penalty subtext it doesn’t feel preachy. At times, it did look like as if two different films were spliced together, which can make certain scenarios feel a bit contrived, however, My Days of Mercy is a solid romantic drama that is fuelled by two excellent performances from Page and Mara, and it’s down to those two alone that makes this film worth checking out.
Dir: Tali Shalom-Ezer
Scr: Joe Barton
Cast: Ellen Page, Kate Mara, Amy Seimetz, Brian Geraghty, Elias Koteas
Prd: Ellen Page, Kate Mara, David Hinojosa, Christine Vachon
DOP: Radek Ladczuk
Music: Michael Brook
Run time: 103 mins
My Days of Mercy will be released on May 17th.