My Days of Mercy: BFI Flare Festival Film Review

The BFI Flare Festival, a celebration of LGBTQ cinema, opened last week with My Days of Mercy, starring and produced by Ellen Page and Kate Mara as lovers on opposite sides of a political debate.

Page plays Lucy, whose father is on death row accused of murdering her mother. That happened eight years ago, when she was 14, and she has been raised by her sister Martha (Amy Seimetz) and they both look after brother Ben (Charlie Shotwell). The trio regularly make trips in their RV to prisons to campaign against the death penalty. During these protests, she mets Mercy (Mara), who is in the opposite campaign group, but they begin a romance despite their political differences.

Page is the best thing about My Days of Mercy. Her performance was powerful – sweet and moving while also being playful and funny. She was given the best lines of dialogue and she seemed so natural and comfortable that she was captivating to watch. Mara gave a fine performance too but it was more subtle and reserved than Page’s emotional Lucy, so she stole the show. Seimitz was very good as the sister-turned-mother with the weight of the world on her shoulders, Shotwell was a total scene stealer thanks to some hilarious lines of dialogue, while Elias Koteas played their father and Brian Geraghty as their lawyer-slash-Martha’s lover.

It’s good to see an LGBT movie that isn’t just about the relationship itself, it has more going on – perhaps too much. It’s hard to know where its heart lies – with Lucy and Mercy’s relationship, or with Lucy’s family trying to prove their father’s innocence. The strands were both interesting but I was probably more invested in the family because it had higher emotional stakes. I also had no idea about these touring protest groups so I found that fascinating – travelling for miles and camping near a prison just to stand outside it with signs is quite the commitment!

My Days of Mercy pitches itself as an LGBT romance story, and while there is a decent amount of it, it gets sidelines towards the end for the sake of the family drama. However, both themes were compelling and it was all held together by impressive performances.

Seen as part of the BFI Flare Film Festival. Explore the programme here. No UK cinema release as yet. 

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