One of my favorite things about Netflix.com is the fact that I get the opportunity to watch movies I’ve never heard of before due to them either not being a major Box Office hit, only playing in select theaters around the world, or only appearing at Film Festivals. A lot of these may not have had multimillion dollar budgets, yet they managed to snag talented actors and bring to life fascinating story lines. Such films have much to offer of which most of the public has no knowledge, but thanks to Netflix these movies have the opportunity to reach a wider audience. While browsing the romance genre in a sortable list on Netflix, I came across a prime example; Mercy.
In 2009, by all appearances, Mercy made little splash. This film is a Dramance (combination Drama Romance), also referred to as a Dark Romance, starring Scott Caan and Wendy Glenn with James Caan. Written and produced by Scott Caan, the movie shows how versatile this man has become in the film industry. I don’t know about you, but I’ve kind of had Scott stuck in my head as a teenager because I haven’t seen anything with him in it since the 90s; such movies as A Boy Called Hate and Varsity Blues. Of course, I know he’s been busy, I just haven’t seen any of his other credits.
What’s funny about me watching Mercy is I was in search of a lighthearted romance that night, I simply read the summary and decided it sounded interesting. If I had scrolled down a little, I would have seen that it’s billed as a Dark Romance. Although, if I had been aware of that fact I might not have watched it yet, if ever. Needless to say, I was a little blindsided by the dark aspect of the film, even still I found this movie both beautiful and moving. I’m going to be totally frank, at first I didn’t think I would like it because Scott’s character seemed to be a total player. But because the chronology of the film is all over the place, just as I was beginning to despise Scott’s character the scene would shift and it would be more of his memories of being with Mercy which made me hang in there for the conclusion. So this film is, in a word, gripping.
Scott Caan plays Johnny Ryan a romance novelist who while suffering writer’s block meets a woman named Mercy Bennett (played by Wendy Glenn) who immediately intrigues him because she shuts down his advances; the one book critic who called him out on the lack of depth in his previous novel. With these two, conversation is like iron sharpening iron. Mercy isn’t like any of the women Johnny has ever known; she challenges him and instigates a drive within him to challenge himself. Through his relationship with her, he finds the focus he needs to break his writer’s block and discovers a depth to his own character.
The way the film plays out gives the impression of peeling away the layers of an onion. After scratching away at Johnny’s surface, it becomes apparent there is more to his story than meets the eye. It isn’t until the audience meets his father, Gerry Ryan (played by Scott’s real-life father, James Caan), that some of Johnny’s hang ups with women and relationships finally make sense. Johnny says of his romance novels that he writes them as he views love; a fairytale. A view which his embittered father instilled in him from a young age as a result of the failure of his marriage to Johnny’s mother. Perhaps, Johnny turned to writing romance novels as a way to work through his conflicting belief about love and marriage as if to give voice to the small part of himself which refused to believe his dad. Just a thought I had while watching this movie.
Honestly, I find it difficult to review a movie without revealing too much so I’m attempting to not divulge key bits of the film. I believe everyone who watches this for the first time should get the same experience and possibly the same moments of surprise that I did. That said, I would like to say the filming itself impressed me with the cinematography employed in its creation. There are a lot of scenes which appear dark because of the time of day, but I think they might have enhanced that some to add to the element, to add to the brooding waves flowing off Johnny throughout the majority of the film. There is also a sense while watching Mercy of being a present observer to everything, maybe because of the close quarters to a lot of the scenes or the closeness of the cameras to the actors. Whatever the case, it made the film seem more engrossing.
While most romance movies focus on the development of the lead female character, Mercy focuses on the development of the male lead. The few romances I’ve seen that appear to focus on the male tend to lack real depth and heart; they aim for funny as opposed to realism and skirt any honest insight into the male psyche where it pertains to love. With Mercy, it appears Scott Caan aimed for a sincere look into the workings of one man’s struggles with love and relationships. This one may actually be a man’s romance movie, instead of the “chick flicks” frequenting theaters across America and the world over. I can only imagine the level of satisfaction which Scott Caan experienced at his first viewing of the completed work; a story he’d crafted in his mind and on paper brought to life on the silver screen. If he isn’t truly proud of this work, he should be because it certainly is a masterpiece! I would give this film four out of five stars!