The Mercy  – ★★1/2
⛵ There is a method in his madness. This is the way some were able to characterise Donald Crowhurst’s insane desire and, ultimately, attempt to finish a single-handed, non-stop round-the world trip or the Golden Glove (Yacht) Race sponsored by Sunday Times in 1968. Completely amateur, Crowhurst, nevertheless, entered the race, and, overcome with growing boat problems and despair, started falsifying his positions in log books so as to make it appear as though he is making an excellent progress in the race. The fascinating bit is that the film is based on a real story, which has so far been the subject of numerous books and other films (for example, see a better recent film Crowhurst (2018)). Despite the cast of Colin Firth and Rachel Weisz in the lead roles, The Mercy cannot keep itself afloat and never quite manages to raise its sails up, portraying a very predictable (to the point of boring) voyage, with an almost unconvincing and foolish “hero”-character at its centre.
⛵ We first meet Donald Crowhurst (Colin Firth) at a convention where Sunday Times announces its opening for participating entries to compete in its round-the-world Golden Glove Race. After this, Crowhurst is full of maniac enthusiasm and wit, quoting confidently Chichester: “Any damn fool can navigate the world sober. It takes a really good sailor to do it drunk”. Crowhurst boasts that he put his name as a participant of the race, and is flattered by Rodney Hallworth (David Thewlis), a journalist, who says to him that he reminds him of the old England long lost. However, Crowhurst’s forthcoming trip puts a strain on his family, and his trip preparation does not go as planned, for example, Crowhurst has to mortgage his home to finance it (even though he is already sponsored). Rachel Weisz gives a convincing performance as Crowhurst’s wife Clare, as the latter talks about how she never thought that her husband would actually sail after building the boat. Clare’s final speech to the rapporteurs is particularly moving, when she refers to each of them being symbolically responsible for her husband’s disappearance or drowning.
⛵ The events in the film then move rather fast, but the overall impression is still stale. The audience already knows what doom to expect at the end, and that worsens the experience. In the film, even before Crowhurst sails, we see him having cold feet. On 31 October 1968, the date of Crowhurst’s departure, we see a resignation in his eyes, and the film may as well be called “Resigned to his Fate”, with the result being that it is almost not worth the continuing watch.
⛵ In the film, full of despair about his own and his boat’s inabilities to compete, Crowhurst then starts giving misleading locations on his whereabouts, making everyone at home believe he is progressing rapidly around the world. Crowhurst is becoming famous, but not quite in a way he initially hoped. The film presents this drama by contrasting his present disastrous state with flashes of Crowhurst’s past confident remarks about the sea voyage. “I cannot return nor can I continue”, says Crowhurst, as his paranoia and fear set in, and he absent-mindedly drifts in his boat near South America. The same thing starts to happen to this film, which “stagnates” and, at least excitement-wise, seems to find itself in very shallow waters. To sympathise or be in awe of any character, we must have first really believe in their big dreams and determination, and the development of this particular aspect was also rushed in the film. Even Crowhurst’s real grown-up son, upon watching The Mercy, remarked that the film might have struggled to convey more “complex” and “difficult to put across” ideas, such as Crowhurst’s “confusion” at the very end of his life about his fateful boat trip.
⛵ The Mercy is slighter better than an average adventure film thanks to its stellar cast (Colin Firth, Rachel Weisz and David Thewlis), their performances, and the appeal of a fascinating true story. However, it still made some fatal mistakes in plotting, such as robbing itself of intrigue by displaying Crowhurst’s evident inability to compete and the fear of the race at the very beginning of the film. This, coupled with a clumsily-put together and predictable ending, makes the film almost a dull watch and Crowhurst an almost unsympathetic “hero”. In that vein, it appears that The Mercy really “calls for a mercy”; this is a film which just begs and unreasonably for one’s inordinate amount of leniency, patience, understanding and condonation.
4 Comments Add yours
That was my impression. I am now dying to see “Crowhurst”. This is a more independent production, but I have heard it is a more genuine portrayal.
Oh man. I’m such a sucker for Colin Firth. I hoped this would be good.
First review I’ve seen for this. Darn, I love this cast but I can see why it fell short of the mark.