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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

Trial by Fire and My Days of Mercy movies review: two (rare) new dramas about the US death penalty

by MaryAnn Johanson

Trial by Fire and My Days of Mercy green lights

MaryAnn’s quick take…
Two very different films, replete with emotionally engaging performances, examine the impact of the American death penalty from the large-scale legal and political to that of intimate personal grief.
I’m “biast” (pro): very anti-capital punishment; love the casts of both films
I’m “biast” (con): nothing
I have read the Trial by Fire source material (and I like it)
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

I’m not sure if many Americans realize what an aberration it is that the United States still regularly executes its own citizens. What other nations do this? China. North Korea. Those in the Middle East. That’s… not great company for the supposed (if self-declared) global bastion of freedom and enlightenment. As a social-justice cause, putting an end to capital punishment has been a bit backburnered in the Trump era — in pop culture, I mean; plenty righteous real-life SJWs have continued to fight the good fight in this regard. Though maybe it’s only my perception that movies have stepped back from confronting this issue: the death penalty has never really been a major pop-culture concern. It’s probably only a coincidence that two new movies about capital punishment in America have arrived, one each on either side of the Atlantic. Both are only small releases anyway, and unlikely to make much of a splash. But I am trying here…

women’s participation in
Trial by Fire

(learn more about this)
male director, male screenwriter, female coprotagonist

women’s participation in
My Days of Mercy

(learn more about this)
female director, male screenwriter, female protagonist

Click here for my ranking of these and 2019’s other theatrical releases.

Trial by Fire (2019)
green light 3.5 stars

My Days of Mercy (2019)
green light 4 stars

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Trial by Fire (2019) | directed by Edward Zwick
US/Canada release date: May 17 2019 | UK release date: Oct 21 2019 (direct to VOD)

MPAA: rated R for language throughout, some violence, disturbing images, sexual material and brief nudity
BBFC: rated 15 (strong language, violence, execution scene, sex references)

viewed at home on PR-supplied physical media or screening link

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes
My Days of Mercy (2019) | directed by Tali Shalom-Ezer
US/Canada release date: Jul 05 2019 | UK release date: May 17 2019 (VOD same day)

MPAA: rated R for strong sexuality/nudity, and for language
BBFC: rated 15 (strong language, sex)

viewed at home on PR-supplied physical media or screening link

IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

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