The Mercy, 2018.
Directed by James Marsh.
Starring Colin Firth, Rachel Weisz, David Thewlis, Ken Stott, and Mark Gatiss.
When amateur sailor Donald Crowhurst (Colin Firth) decides that there must be more to life than failed entrepreneurial endeavors, he sets out on a solo mission to circumnavigate the globe, against the wishes of his wife (Rachel Weisz), and the better judgment of almost everyone in the sailing community.
Anyone expecting a similar journey to J.C. Chandor’s stripped back survival drama All Is Lost might be surprised to learn that this based on a true story biopic is more of an existential drift on the high seas than race-against-time drama. It asks the same questions about morality and legacy, but does so in a much more genteel fashion.
An absence of thrills and spills is not detrimental to The Mercy, for the fascination lays within the story, and not necessarily what’s going on with Crowhurst as he deals with the mounting issues of being out-of-his-depth, but the effect it has on those back home.
It’s on land that Rachel Weisz becomes the heart of the movie. Behind every phone call home from his increasingly dire situation, she takes an unspoken emotional burden from him, shifting the weight of his troubles and the ramifications it might have onto her shoulders. Weisz is so beautifully understated, and during a scene in which she attacks the press for the role they’ve played in Donald’s plight, delivers a speech more powerful than anything else in the movie.
That brings us to the action on The Teingmouth Election, which is where The Mercy doesn’t work as well, especially during a couple of misjudged sequences in which Crowhurst goes a bit Colonel Kurtz, seeing horses appear in the water and dressing himself in seaweed.
Everything feels a little too surface level and sanitised to truly depict an insecure man’s descent into madness. It’s incredibly twee, as if The Theory of Everything director James Marsh should have taken a larger side step from that project, venturing into the darker depths of his subject matters, like he’d done previously with documentaries Man on Wire (2008) and Project Nim (2011).
There are some great supporting performances from the likes of David Thewlis and Ken Stott, who combine with Weisz to add an emotional depth that is perhaps lacking in Firth’s central turn, but the biggest takeaway from The Mercy is that it’s a true-story, which while fascinating and unavoidably emotional towards the resolution, sends you on your own Wikipedia journey to fill in the blanks of a wishy-washy film.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
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