Around this time of year, it feels as if every other film is based on a true life story. Some are uplifting, some break you down a little, then there’s the few like ‘The Mercy’, which make you question why someone would ever do something as crazy as this. By this, I mean why would you sail around the world without stopping in a hand built boat when you yourself are only an avid sailor? We are basically asked to watch a man go off to certain death, which isn’t the most appealing of topics. It’s a testament to the direction of James Marsh and Colin Firth’s performance that this never feels like a chore.
Firth plays Donald Crowhurst and gives full commitment to a role that requires him to move around alone on a boat. Films that rely so heavily on the isolation of a single character can fall apart if the casting is all wrong. It’s lucky they had Firth on hand to embody Crowhurst as his descent into madness from being alone is a compelling watch. It’s never over acted and keeps us wondering if there is any way back from his dreadful situation. Rachel Weisz is also outstanding as his wife Clare Crowhurst, especially her speech near the end which should have been utterly clichéd and ridiculous, but Weisz brought a sense of truth and emotion to it which absolutely nailed it.
Cinematographer Eric Gautier manages to make (the sea) feel vibrant and alive throughout the run time and, at times, makes you seemingly forget how horrible and deadly it truly is…
However, the real star of this film is the sea. Cinematographer Eric Gautier manages to make it feel vibrant and alive throughout the run time and, at times, makes you seemingly forget how horrible and deadly it truly is for Crowhurst. One scene that involves David fixing his boat shows off a 360° view of the vast, never ending horizon and is absolutely breathtaking. It comes after spending that last few scenes confined to his one and only room on the boat, so the open space is almost a shock to the senses.
The key technique that kept me interested was using flashbacks to David’s life before the boat trip just enough that they weren’t overused. It allowed some sense of freedom from the constraints of the boat he was trapped on for the audience and gave us more of an understanding as to why he did what he did.
While ‘The Mercy’ is nothing groundbreaking or innovative, I found it a really interesting tale of human survival and the idea of wanting something so bad, you don’t stop and think of the consequences before there’s no turning back. A nice but not so happy surprise.