Based on the true story of amateur sailor Donald Crowhurst (Colin Firth) and his solo attempt to sail round the globe without stopping. This attempt was a part of the 1968 Sunday Times Golden Globe Race and it’s completion would make the winner the first person ever to achieve this feat. Donald decides to take on the challenge and ropes in local business man Mr Best (Ken Stott, The Hobbit, Fortitude) to fund his mission – with the promise of the money back when he wins – and local journalist Rodney Hallworth (David Thewlis, Harry Potter, The Theory of Everything) to work up support and sponsorship. Donald’s wife Clare (Rachel Weisz) and the mother of his three young children, is supportive but clearly doesn’t want him to actually go through with it.
With the deadline to set off rapidly approaching and the boat nowhere near ready, Donald is forced to ask Mr Best for more money. In order to cover his back Mr Best agrees under the condition that if Donald doesn’t complete the race his business and house will go to Mr Best. Backed into a corner, Donald signs, and therefore when the last day to leave arrives and his boat still isn’t fully ready, he is forced to set off for the sake of his family and their home. Naturally Donald quickly runs into trouble as his boat struggles to stay together and it becomes clear to him that he won’t be able to complete the race. He is then faced with a difficult decision, if he goes back he loses everything but if he continues he is likely not to survive. Donald decides he has no choice but to lie. He sends messages home claiming to be further along than he is, generating lots of attention as he notches up incredibly fast times. As his popularity grows and more and more contestants are taken out, Donald becomes a firm favourite to win, but after nearly 9 months alone at sea his mental state has deteriorated and he knows he won’t be able to lie to everyone when he returns.
Colin Firth is exceptional in this role, you can really see Donald’s determination to take part and then his apprehension as it dawns on him he has gone too far to back out. The scenes of him at sea are so realistic and emotional as he becomes desperate, and coupled with flashbacks of his life with his family makes for an emotional watch. Colin is an incredible actor and really leads this film, he was the perfect choice for the role. As was the casting of Rachel Weisz, her portrayal of Clare is perfect, she is the ever supportive wife but isn’t afraid to voice her concerns. With Donald’s departure, Rachel really shows Clare’s continued worry as she struggles to keep the family afloat and becomes desperate for any contact or message from her husband. There is an incredibly emotional speech from Clare towards the end of the film, which Rachel puts her all into and brought a tear to my eye! By the end of the film you are so invested in this family and so the final scenes are all the more moving.
Visually, The Mercy is excellent. There are some incredible shots of Donald at sea – although some scenes may make you feel a little sea sick! Filmed actually at sea, and not with a green screen, really brings the realism and a great decision by director James Marsh (The Theory of Everything). The use of flashbacks is also a brilliant decision, it means we quickly get into the sailing part of the film and where the story really takes place, but the slow pace at sea is broken up as we are taken back to the fast pace of the preparation to leave and really keeps the film’s momentum going. It also reminds us what Donald has left behind and therefore triggers so many of his decisions whilst at sea.
Overall, The Mercy is a really good film. I wasn’t sure what to expect, not knowing the story of Donald Crowhurst, but Colin Firth gives a brilliant performance and has you gripped throughout. The supporting cast are all excellent, David Thewliss and Ken Stott in particular as the leaders of Donald’s home support, and Rachel Weisz as the wife and mother left behind. I would really recommend this film, it’s an emotional watch and doesn’t have the ending you would want but being a biography this just makes it all the more real.