"a film that has the power to tell Donald Crowhurst's story without speculating on what really happened on his boat"
Directed by James Marsh, The Mercy uncovers the mystery around Donald Crowhurst and his impossible challenge to travel around the world non stop during the Sunday Times Golden Globe Race. Always a family man and with a passion for sailing and technology, Donald spends his life inventing navigation tools to make the sailors’ lives easy.
His prototypes, however, seem too futuristic to pick up customers’s interest and his dreams of glory seem destined to remain as such. Tired of being content and watching from the sidelines other people succeed and become famous, Crowhurst decides to enlist in the toughest boat race in history, the Sunday Times’ Golden Globe Race.
The ambitious plan is only made more difficult by the fact that Donald has never sailed for long distances. His complete trust in this project to build a boat designed by him in a short period of time is just another step towards an unachievable dream of success.
His difficult journey doesn’t start on the most positive note and along the perilous way, the loneliness, the danger and the harsh conditions eat Donald alive and push him to desperately try to make history. James Marsh’s directing takes on a specific style from the very beginning. He is a director who likes to tell a story by focusing on his characters’ psychology and personality.
In The Mercy he follows Donald through his mental journey rather than actually focus on the sailing competition. The scenes are for the most part shot at close range and the camera follows Donald’s state of mind analysing it while it turns from hopeful to desperate along the way.
The obsessive way in which Donald is trying to achieve the impossible is transmitted to the audience and leaves a sense of oppression and desperation behind that haunt the spectator until the end. Colours have a great impact on the film and as the story progresses, the light gets crushed more and more, leaving only dark tones to highlight Donald's manic state of mind.
Nevertheless, the film in some ways feels too long and made of the same frames repeated over and over, especially the aerial shots of Crowhurst’s boat and, although the story could have had great potential, the piece makes it difficult to follow the story with interest.
The cast ensemble supports the main characters throughout the film and their performances are employed to allow the audience to take a break from Donald's tragic story. Colin Firth and Rachel Weisz deliver an incredible and heartfelt performance, both Donald and Claire Crowhurst are portrayed with honesty. The chemistry between Firth and Weisz highlights the kind of love shared by a married couple. Claire at first thinks that the boat race would be only another one of her husband’s projects that will remain just that, an unfulfilled desire. However, once she understands that he will eventually sail away, her love for him pushes Claire into giving Donald all her support by putting aside her worries. For his part, Firth has to hold a great portion of the film on his shoulder.
His character becomes more and more delusional as time passes by and he is in danger and alone on his boat. The desperation to succeed is ever present in every decision he has to take, including the one to try and cheat the race. The weight of his lies becomes unbearable for Donald and Firth is capable of delivering an amazing performance exactly during Crowhurst worst moment, when insanity, fear and loneliness are bringing him into a spiral of self destruction.
The Mercy is a film that has the power to tell Donald Crowhurst's story without speculating on what really happened on his boat. It is a movie that analyses the protagonist’s emotional and mental state struggle to paint a different picture of a man that made a desperate choice in a time in which all he has is at stake.