“The Mercy” Mini-Review

The Mercy PosterThe Mercy (2018)

There is 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 – 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, 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, probably, a better recent film “Crowhurst” (2018)). Despite the cast of Colin Firth and Rachel Weisz in the lead roles in “The Mercy“, the film 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 in 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. Crowhust 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 as he absent-mindedly drifts in his boat near South America. However, to sympathise or be in awe of this character we must have first really believed in his big dreams and determination, and that was also rushed.  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 on the fateful boat. 

The Mercy” may be slighter better than an average 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 plot, 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 movie. This, coupled with a clumsily-put together and predictable ending, makes the film almost a dull watch and Crowhurst an almost unsympathetic “hero”. “The Mercy” really calls for a mercy; a film which just begs unreasonably for one’s inordinate amount of leniency, patience, understanding and condonation. 6/10

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