Movie Review: ‘The Mercy’

Director: James Marsh

Cast: Colin Firth, Rachel Weisz, David Thewlis, Ken Stott

Plot: Donald Crowhurst is an amateur sailor and engineer who is captivated by a much publicised solo boat race around the world. When problems with his boat mount up he begins faking his position in the race, and the guilt of his deception begins to prey on his sanity.


Review: So…there’s a whole level of bonkers I wasn’t expecting with this one. I didn’t know the true story on which the film is based and didn’t follow the marketing. It began all pretty normal, with Crowhurst (Firth) being driven by his dreams to enter this insane race, going as far as putting his business and home on the line. It turns out that it’s really about a slow descend into madness experienced by a man who was is alone with his guilt.

Crowhurst is very much a day-dreamer. He sells his own inventions, but looks up to figures who have achieved ambitious achievements such as conquering Everest or sailing the globe. When the opportunity to add his name to this list of legends comes around he takes it in spite of his lack of experience. He designs his own boat, finds sponsors and a press agent and gets things going. His wife, Clare (Weisz), is caught between being supportive and being realistic. After Crowhurst begins sending in false information his mind crumbles, leading to hallucinations and despair. When Clare stops hearing updates from her husband she struggles to keep up her spirits for the public and her family.


This is very much down to our two leads to carry the film. There’s good attention paid to the period piece and the limited setting of the boat, but without such talented performers as Crowhurst and Clare it would be difficult to package the story and keep it engaging. Firth is very much performing to himself and the voices in his head. Director Marsh layers the audio in an effective manner, and doesn’t overstate the visual hallucinations, keeping it focused on Firth’s character. Weisz has more characters to interact with, but keeps her performance close to the chest showing a person who is struggling to maintain her own emotions.

This is an enjoyable film about a man who isolated himself in a situation he cannot overcome, making it a thought provoking character study. For all the film’s strengths it doesn’t quite engage on an emotional level to have a long lasting impact.

Rating: SEVEN out of TEN