The Mercy


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

The Mercy
"What is missing is the passion"

At the time Donald Crowhurst was called a maverick, a fantasist, a hero, a cheat. Afterwards he was excused, even admired, by some for attempting and almost succeeding in a Hitler Diaries style fraud. Others wrote him off as a mentally unstable delusionist whose ego ignored advice in favour of money and fame.

It's the Sixties. Francis Chichester circumnavigated the globe in his yacht Gypsy Moth with one stop on the way, which drove newspaper readers to such a pitch of excitement that The Sunday Times announced a competition worth 6000 big ones to the first man (no women unfortunately) home, single handed without stopping, plus a lesser cash prize for the fastest. Serious sailors with international reputations entered and an unknown amateur with no experience in the dangerous Southern seas, or any seas beyond the English coast, whose name was Donald Crowhurst (Colin Firth) and the public loved him as later they will love Eddie the Eagle. Underdogs Rule, Not OK?

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The film captures the feel of the period extremely well but the Crowhursts have been air brushed to a degree that questions Donald's decision to risk his life and his business and the future of his perfect children and even more perfect wife (Rachel Weisz). Everyone is so nice you want to slit your wrists.

What is missing is the passion, the hunger for the project, the obsessive all consuming desire to win. Losing means ruin. The local entrepreneur (Ken Stott) who pays for a bespoke catamaran and sponsors Team Crowhurst - that's dad and his so so so supportive family - insists on collateral, which means if the boat fails to complete the journey they will be left bankrupt and homeless.

The complexities of his deception, involving fake log book entries and false telephone reports of his progress as well as constant problems with the boat, seem difficult to convey with any degree of tension. The unstable nature of Donald's mental state becomes apparent only at the 11th hour, too late to change.

Firth is so convincing as a caring fun dad that Donald's decision to enter the race seems completely out of character. Weisz is wasted. She's too good to be here being too good.

The sea is the enemy when it should have been a friend, angry at the wind's command and lazy in the calming drifts. Donald is caught between despair and guilt.

"I cannot go on and I cannot go back."

This way madness lies.

Reviewed on: 08 Feb 2018
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The story of Donald Crowhurst, an amateur sailor, who enters a round the world competition in the Sixties in an unfinished boat and decides to fake his journey to save face and impending bankruptcy.
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Read more The Mercy reviews:

Jennie Kermode ***1/2

Director: James Marsh

Writer: Scott Z Burns

Starring: Colin Firth, Rachel Weisz, David Thewlis, Ken Stott, Mark Gatiss, Finn Elliot, Andrew Buchan, Jonathan Bailey

Year: 2018

Runtime: 101 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: UK


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