If not for captivating performances from Colin Firth and Rachel Weisz, The Mercy would be a largely forgettable biopic.
Donald Crowhurst (Colin Firth) had a lofty goal. In a perfect world, the amateur sailor would have completed the 1968 Sunday Times Golden Globe Race. The goal of the race is to sail around the world without stopping. There’s a danger that comes with these sort of competitions that need to be stressed. They almost always result in the same thing: a best-selling memoir or a biopic. Unfortunately, Crowhurst would sail only 13,000 miles over seven months and two days at sea. I stress unfortunately because his body has never been found. Whether he slipped and fell or jumped can only be speculated. His ship, the Teignmouth Electron, is eventually discovered in the Dominican Republic.
It becomes early early on that Donald is in way over his head. He starts faking his route. In doing so, he becomes a serious contender forcing others to drop out. Even though his business partner Stanley Best (Ken Stott) tells him he can withdraw whenever, Donald goes full speed ahead.
If not for the competition, Crowhurst would not leave behind a wife, Clare (Rachel Weisz) and three children. It’s really sad when a movie review starts becoming an obituary. I won’t lie in that I never heard of Donald Crowhurst until the film made it’s way to my inbox. Because I didn’t look him up, the ending hit me like a sucker punch. The honest fact is this film really left me really emotional as I watched on a late Monday night before going to bed. I liken it to Adrift in some ways because of the sailing aspect. The films are equally different for their own reasons because one is more of a love story.
When the film isn’t focusing on Donald, the attention turns to Clare. Clare is desperate for any kind of news–good or bad. While Weisz turns in a solid performance, it’ll be one of her underrated performances of the year. Compared to those other performances, this one might be ignored.
As the film comes to an end, Firth shows why he’s an Oscar-winning actor. Of course, the film reaches complete melodramatic territory at the same moment. Firth is just sitting there looking at the camera. It’s a well-directed moment by James Marsh as we cut to Donald looking at Clare. The moment they let go of their hands is when we know the truth. Clare was never in the boat. It’s just Donald’s way of saying goodbye to his wife. Away at sea, Firth doesn’t over act as he carries this portion of the film. This is even as things take a drastic turn for the worst.
Back in the UK, his family is coming grips with reality. Bombarded by the press, Clare chews them out for driving Donald to this point. That’s fair. She’s grieving. We can’t help but feel sorry for Clare and the children.
“Every day I want you to welcome Daddy home with open arms,” Clare tells her children. “Even the parts you don’t understand. Because that’s what you do for some you love who has gone away. Even if they don’t make it back.”
If you weren’t crying as Donald looks at Clare in the boat, this moment surely does the job.
The Mercy isn’t a perfect movie by any means and it comes across as a conventional biopic but gosh darn it, Colin Firth and Rachel Weisz give us performances that are worth watching.
DIRECTOR: James Marsh
SCREENWRITER: Scott Z. Burns
CAST: Colin Firth, Rachel Weisz, David Thewlis, Ken Stott, Simon McBurney, Mark Gatiss, Oliver Maltman, Andrew Buchan, Jonathan Bailey, Anna Madeley, Adrian Schiller, Kit Conner, Finn Elliott, Eleanor Stagg