The Mercy is based on the life of sailor Donald Crowhurst, who was a weekend sailor who decided to participate in the Golden Globe race in 1968. When I went to see this film, I had no idea about the real-life story or the events that had happened, as a result, all the twists and turns were quite surprising to me. However, I believe this film biggest reveal that he decided to lie and fake his progress because he couldn’t go on was ruined by the trailer; so, when this was revealed my emotional response was tapered because I was waiting for it to happen. Furthermore, I think the plot suffers from some leaps in logic, with the ending being an example of this, with me questioning the characters motivations a lot of the time as I don’t believe that character’s motivations were properly established. In terms of tone the film is quite melancholy and even depressing, with the trailers seeming to suggest that it was going to be much more inspirational then it was. The film itself did two things that impressed me. The first was the use of digetic sound, to accurately present this idea of isolation out at sea, this was done to a masterful degree by Johann Johannsson who did the music design. This triumph of sound design is shown in one particular scene when Colin Firth’s character of Donald is playing the harmonica around Christmas time, and the scene perfectly captures the isolation and loneliness the man would have been feeling. The second thing that impressed me was the use of monologues, through these monologues we see the slow slip into madness that Donald goes through and we see his inner thoughts, this helps to empathises the emotional impact and helps the audience to emote and feel sorry for his character, as we can see the tole this adventure takes on him. Furthermore, the deconstruction of the character of Donald Crowhurst himself is quite interesting here, as we are first presented we a man who a family man is, who isn’t a proper sailor, but then we see him sacrifice more and more towards his ultimate end and we begin to question his character and decisions. The director James March does this deliberately to show these two contrasting ideas of Crowhurst, making the audience reach their own conclusions about what type of man he was. There are also quite a few nice montage scenes here which are used quite effectively and to great impact. The performances here from, Colin Firth (Donald Crowhurst), Racheal Weisz (Claire Crowhurst) and David Thewlis (Rodney Hallworth), are all top calibre. With the standout performance being by David Thewlis, who though not heavily featured managed to be charming, funny and memorable in his small role. I think this film also suffered from thinking it was cleverer then it was, and almost had an Oscar bait tone towards it; that it never quite managed to live up to.
Despite some plot holes and leaps in logic, the strong performances manage to improve the overall film. Still, with many other Oscar bait films out at this time of the year, I wonder if you’re time wouldn’t be better served watching something else. Whilst a riveting tale, this film also manages to be depressing and at time dull and ultimately a disappointment.
Reviewed by Luke.