Chris Sparling’s Mercy is a scary look into family dynamics but ultimately left me wanting more of everyone’s back story.
About 25 minutes into Mercy, I started noticing that not much had happened. And – as I’ve stated before – I’m fine with a slow burner that introduces us to characters. Especially when this happens for the purpose of us understanding their actions better.
Unfortunately, I never felt like I got to know the characters in Mercy much better.
We meet four brothers that don’t really care for each other. What they do care about is money. And while most people can respect that money is of great importance, I need some back story on these people to know why it’s the only thing they care about.
All four brothers return home to be with their dying mother, but you never quite figure out how any of them feel about her. The four men seem to hate each other. Though they are divided into two groups as they have different fathers. This seems to be of great importance, but mostly due to a question involving inheritance.
A mystery told from various viewpoints
I love it when a story is revealed through more that one viewpoint, and I certainly got that with Mercy. About halfway through the movie, we go back to the beginning and experience the same moments from someone else’s perspective.
It works on many levels and engages the audience. Personally, I do feel it came too late and still revealed too little, but I enjoyed getting the second perspective. It’s a wonderful way of showing us all that there is never just one side to any story.
And it’s not that the story is told by various characters either. We experience things from different vantage points, but we’re not really on anyone’s side. But one thing you realize very quickly is the fact that the brothers do seem to know what’s going on. You will too, but just the core points. Never the full picture.
It’s a funny thing with a story like this one. It’s very dependant on it’s cast – as all movies are – but with Mercy no individual character or actor gets to shine. Instead, the story and mystery are at the heart of the movie. It’s not that this can’t work, but when I don’t really care particularly about the characters – because I don’t know them – then it simply doesn’t work. Not to the extent that it should, anyway.
While I was entertained, for the most part, I was also left very unsatisfied when the credits came. However, I would love to get more of the story, so it’s not that I wasn’t still intrigued.
A brilliant writer at work
Mercy was written and directed by Chris Sparling, who hasn’t directed as much as he’s written. And honestly, I feel like he’s such an amazing screenwriter, but his script only really shines, when someone else directs. He wrote and directed The Atticus Institute last year, which didn’t really work either.
However, before that he wrote the screenplay Buried starring Ryan Reynolds and directed by Rodrigo Cortés. Making a movie that takes place inside a buried casket is no small feat. It takes a great script first, but this needs to be brought to life by the actor and told by the choices made by the director. It worked with Buried, but with Mercy, we’re never allowed to get too close.
We’re always kept skirting around the edges. Never allowed to see the full picture, but instead settling for bits of information and hints here and there.
Look, I get the fascination with dysfunctional families – and people in general – but I just felt like we kept scratching the surface. It felt like a pilot episode of a new show. One I’d love to watch. Though, now I feel like I was left with scraps of a really big story, where I’m forced to create back stories and motives for most characters. Mercy failed to deliver on some key points, but the story had huge potential and an awesome ending.
Mercy premiered at Los Angeles Film Festival this past June and is available on Netflix worldwide from November 22, 2016.
Director: Chris Sparling
Writer: Chris Sparling
Cast: James Wolk, Caitlin FitzGerald, Tom Lipinski
When four estranged brothers return home to say their last goodbye to their dying mother, Grace, hidden motivations reveal themselves.