Screening today at the Toronto International Film Festival is Israeli director Tali Shalom Ezer’s newest drama, ‘My Days of Mercy.’
Starring Ellen Page (“Juno”) and Kate Mara (“House of Cards”), “My Days of Mercy” tells the story of two women, Lucy and Mercy (Page and Mara), who fall in love despite viewpoints that seem impossible to reconcile: Lucy, whose father is on death row, is an anti-death penalty activist; Mercy, whose police officer father’s partner was murdered, supports capital punishment. “My Days of Mercy” is Ezer’s third feature film and her American debut; in 2014 she directed “PRINCESS,” a psychological family drama that cleaned up at the 2014 Jerusalem International Film Festival, and in 2008 she directed “Surrogate,” an hour-long film about the relationship between a sex therapist and her patient.
Page and Mara (Rooney’s sister) are reportedly friends in real life, and had actively sought scripts that would allow them to work together. Since coming out in 2014, Page has taken lead roles in movies with LGBT themes, including “Freeheld” (2015) with Julianne Moore, about a police officer and her partner fighting to legitimize their relationship as Moore’s character grapples with terminal cancer. Both Page and Mara have other projects featured during TIFF this year, which is showing over 300 films.
The reviews for “My Days of Mercy” have begun to come in, so let’s take a look and see how Ezer’s newest film is being received.
Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter:
What’s agreeable and appealing here is how slowly and naturalistically matters gestate between the two; it does seem somewhat contrived that two such diametrically opposed women could clear a path toward a relationship, but their obsessions overlap to a degree, just as there could be unknown separate issues that bring them together […] The best moments lie simply in the interchanges between the two women.
Jordan Hoffman, Vanity Fair:
This is a movie where physical intimacy is a final lifeline to people so beaten down they have nothing left. Naturally, everyone is overwhelmingly bummed-out most of the time […] Despite the peculiarity of mixing and issue-oriented political film with an LGBT coming-of-age story, it is ultimately a very powerful, emotional, and universal story.
Dennis Harvey, Variety:
Page, in the middle of a very busy year (beyond this premiere and “The Cured,” TIFF venues are wallpapered with posters for the imminent “Flatliners” remake), gives one of her best performances in a tailor-made role. Mara is fine as a character whose elusiveness ultimately transcends plot device […] A lesbian romance stretching across bitterly divided death-penalty political lines might sound like a recipe for case-pleading dramatic contrivance, but it’s handled with plausible restraint and delicacy.
Jude Dry, IndieWire:
Tali Shalom-Ezer shows remarkable restraint with her third feature, infusing the densely packed material with nuance and levity […] If “My Days of Mercy” was not prepared to grapple with its deeper themes, it should have left them out entirely. By burying its sweetly rendered lesbian romance in a dense drama about capital punishment, it does a disservice to both stories. [Grade: B-]
Deborah Krieger is a curatorial assistant and freelance arts and culture writer. She had written for The Awl, Bust Magazine, PopMatters, Paste Magazine, Whitehot Magazine, and blogs at I On The Arts.