Donald Crowhurst (Colin Firth) is an inventor and a dreamer. He hasn’t always had the best luck with his business, but he still dreams big. When he hears about a race to sail alone around the world without stopping, amateur sailor Donald decides to go for it, hoping that the cash prize will finally mean financial security. He throws everything he has and more at the project, designing his own boat and getting ready. But everything takes longer than he planned and despite the problems and the increasing worries of his wife (Rachel Weisz) and children, Donald sets off delayed and with an unfinished boat to try and win anyway.
The Mercy is an impressive film with a stellar cast and a healthy dose of criticism of the “if you just work it hard enough, you can have it all” notion. It’s tough to watch but mostly worth it.
I have to admit that I didn’t know Crowhurst’s story before seeing the film, which meant that I met it unprepared – which makes the entire story even worse than it already is. Towards the end of the film, the scenes on the boat pretty much become a horror film and that wasn’t always easy to stomach (and I like horror movies).
Despite the ever-increasing tension, the film does have a couple of lenghts and could have been a smidge shorter. But then again, Firth and Weisz (and pretty much everybody else in the film) are so great that I wouldn’t have wanted to miss a single moment of their performance. So I can live with the lengthy bits.
What will stay with me above everything else is how utterly cornered Donald was. That lack of option didn’t start on the boat but way before that. There was just no out for him once he announced that he wanted to race – and nobody who could have given him an out was willing to back down. Fueled by, basically, American Dream rhetoric, and forced by lack of resources he had nowhere to go but to press ahead, even when it became an increasingly bad idea.
In a fictional story, he would have been the underdog who made it despite circumstances through the sheer force of will and belief in himself. But this story really happened, and in life, will and belief often just aren’t enough to succeed. Often there is no win-win. In this case, there was just loss. And the film makes that abundantly clear – and felt.
Summarizing: tough, but well made.