The Mercy: Film Review

James Marsh has had an impressive career so far with highlights like Oscar-winning documentary Man on Wire and the Oscar-nominated The Theory of Everything, but he seems unlikely to replicate those successes with The Mercy, which is an uninspired and forgettable biopic.

Colin Firth stars as Donald Crowhurst, a businessman who sails as a hobby, who decides to enter into the Sunday Times Golden Globe Race for the first person to single-handedly sail around the globe without stopping in 1968. He gets a loan from businessman Stanley (Ken Stott), hires press agent Rodney (David Thewlis) and goes about building a trimaran of his own design in time for the October deadline.

However, he hits a number of technical snags and delays and the boat is not completely finished before he has to sail from his home in Teignmouth, England, leaving his wife Clare (Rachel Weisz) and their children. He soon encounters problems with his vessel and knows he won’t survive the tough Southern Ocean so he cuts his losses and stays put around South America. He can’t go home as he faces humiliation and financial ruin and he can’t continue, so he decides to fabricate his globe-trotting journey.

There is always going to be a problem making a film about a real-life story which is unsolved. It means the ending has to be vague and therefore less dramatic. A lack of conclusive ending is very annoying but there isn’t much else you can do when that’s what the real story is. There is also only so much you can do with a man on his own in a boat. It is thought Crowhurst went mad by the end and while we do see some hallucinations, I would have liked something more with that aspect.

The boat action is thankfully interspersed with other scenes of Clare and their children, who are under the illusion Crowhurst is breaking speed records due to his false reports, and of his agent spinning his progress for greater news coverage. These are a welcome change of tone and stops it from becoming too depressing and one-note.

Firth gives a decent performance but ultimately I did not care about Crowhurst’s fate and that is either because of the writing or because I found him to be an absolutely selfish fool. Not a character I could get behind at all. Weisz isn’t given much to do beyond the usual worried wife shtick but Thewlis shone as the charismatic press agent who adds a much-needed lightness.

The Mercy isn’t terrible and it is decent enough for a Sunday afternoon viewing. It is just OK – I didn’t feel anything or care for the characters which is a shame because the story itself is actually really interesting, just a hard one to make work cinematically.

In cinemas Friday 9th February 

Trackbacks

  1. […] have been a lot of the ‘stranded at sea’ variety in recent years, with February’s The Mercy springing to mind. Adrift is an interesting watch but doesn’t really stand out among these as […]

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