My Days of Mercy is one of those coming-of-age love stories that happens to see love coming from the strangest of all places.
Lucy Moro (Ellen Page) is an anti-death penalty activist traveling with her sister, Martha (Amy Seimetz), and younger brother, Benjamin (Charlie Shotwell). While outside of a Kentucky penitentiary, Lucy meets attorney Mercy Bromage (Kate Mara) during a protest. There is a strong bond between the two women even though they are on opposite sides. Yes, this is one of the classic opposites attract stories. It is fascinating to watch two people come together despite how they feel about the death penalty. It certainly makes for a fascinating story!
As the two women get to know each other, Mercy believes there’s a way for Lucy’ dad, Simon (Elias Koteas), to get his freedom. While it’s fine to go down this road, we know how these type of cases typically end up. You know what they say–hope for the best, expect the worst. Anyway, things are going well between them until Lucy stop’s by Mercy’s place and is shocked to learn that she has a boyfriend, Ian (Jake Robinson). The two break up then and there. In spite of this, Mercy later shows her support by attending Simon’s execution.
During the film’s epilogue, there is an attempt at getting back together. This isn’t so much on Lucy’s part but on Mercy’s. Mercy went through hell and high water in trying to find Lucy. Lucy is quick to reject Mercy but maybe there are still some feelings left for her. The film ends with the duo making plans to meet up after Lucy’s shift. As such, it is somewhat of an open ending.
Both Lucy and Mercy have great chemistry between each other. Real life friends Page and Mara are able to sell this romance so well. Both of them are incredible actors. To their credit, it shows–even during the sex scenes in the Winnebago.
My Days of Mercy is well-directed by Israeli filmmaker Tali Shalom-Ezer. I especially love the camera framing when Lucy tells Mercy that her father is in prison for killing her mom. Later on during the execution scene, Michael Brook’s score is very intense. There are a lot of solid filmmaking choices being made throughout the film. It’s still hard to believe that Joe Barton’s script was inspired by a single paragraph in a John Grisham novel.
While the relationship has to work for the film to be successful, the other thing here is the decision to ground a lesbian romance in capital punishment. This decision alone is one of those ideas that easily ups the stakes. Obviously, there’s a lot more that could be done in this regard. But hey, opposites attract, right?
This is one of those films that I’ve had my eye on since the second TIFF announcement in 2017. It’s disappointing in having to wait well over a year for it’s release. More disappointing has been the delays following a limited run on the festival circuit. Thankfully, My Days of Mercy is finally available for viewers to watch in select theaters or at home. The third-act buffering is the one major disappointment that comes by viewing the film as a screener. The lack of a wide release is one of the things that comes with having a film that has a niche audience.
At the end of the day, what matters is that My Days of Mercy clears its biggest hurdle of navigating a lesbian romance and capital punishment.
DIRECTOR: Tali Shalom-Ezer
SCREENWRITER: Joe Barton
CAST: Ellen Page, Kate Mara, Amy Seimetz, Brian Geraghty, Charlie Shotwell, and Elias Koteas