"What the film achieves with very little money is the pathological journey from hope to hell."

The story is well known. At the time, in the late Sixties, it held the country spellbound. This guy, this amateur sailor, the last contestant to leave England on The Sunday Times Golden Globe round the world nonstop race, could win. Maybe. And then the wheels came off. Or rather the sails blew away.

The truth, my God, was shocking. How could he? Where was he? A nation left in limbo, furious, sympathetic, deceived, fascinated.

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They found the boat, drifting. They didn't find the man.

Donald Crowhurst was a unsuccessful inventor, a salesman better at convincing himself than anyone else, definitely on the slippery, having to deal with a cold-hearted bank manager and a warm-hearted wife. His children loved him. That's easy to say, not so easy to achieve.

"You did tell me I was marrying an impossible man, " his wife said, with a smile. She wasn't making it up.

When he read in the paper about the round the world race and the £5000 prize money, he saw it as a way out. She was more practical.

"You've never spent more than a couple of days at sea in your life. And you don't have a boat."

Any normal person would have rubbed their eyes and gone back to sleep, but Donald was a dreamer, a manic depressive who believed he could achieve anything when he put his mind to it. He persuaded a local businessman to finance the building of an "unsinkable" trimaran and attracted the services of a freelance journalist to act as his press agent.

He sailed from Teinmouth with only hours to spare before the deadline closed. The boat was leaking and they hadn't provided a pump. Soon enough the black dog barked. Life on board consisted of bailing water and being sick Too early to throw in the towel. There was only one alternative. Fake it!

Crowhurst was admirable and despicable at the same time. To break the rules was not what a gentleman did in those trust buttressed days before drug testing and character assessment. An Englishman expects, etc. Cheating was what Johnny Foreigner did.

Mentally Donald was hanging by his fingernails. Playing chess with himself and heating up baked beans was the limit of his enjoyment.

Meanwhile the rest of the competitors were dropping like anchors while he continued to send back false reports from a position somewhere near South America.

What the film achieves with very little money is the pathological journey from hope to hell. Where it falls behind is explaining the facts in enough detail so that those who don't know the story can keep up.

Donald's enemy was boredom and his worst fear being found out. How do you depict boredom without being boring? How do you express fear without making faces?

Writer/director Simon Rumley takes a leaf from Nic Roag's book - he's an associated producer BTW - and creates visual collages every now and again with snatches of flashbacks and flashforwards, implying a reality crash that can only end in a bad place.

The performance of Justin Salinger as Donald captures the fallibility of a dreamer as well as the controlling self assurance of a man who feels the power is with him if only the world would let him in.

Reviewed on: 18 Jul 2018
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Story of the amateur sailor who tried to circumnavigate the globe.
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Director: Simon Rumley

Writer: Andy Briggs, Simon Rumley

Starring: Justin Salinger, Amy Loughton, Christopher Hale, Glyn Dilley, Haydn May, Marcus May, Austin May, Agatha Cameron Kettle, Lewis Nicolas, Myrian Oje-Da Patino

Year: 2017

Runtime: 103 minutes

BBFC: 12 - Age Restricted

Country: UK


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