Director James Marsh follows up 2014’s The Theory of Everything with The Mercy, another distinctly British drama. Starring Rachel Weisz and Colin Firth, this is, at first glance, an extraordinarily twee story to base a film on. A middle-aged, middle-class man decides he’s going to build a boat and attempt to sail around the world single-handedly, beating world records at the same time. However, this man is completely ill-equipped as a sailor and has a boat not fit for purpose.
Based on the true story of Donald Crowhurst, The Mercy truly finds its feet as the sailor ends up in a terrifying situation. Weisz is as watchable as ever as wife Clare, left at home to take care of the children and house without ever really being asked if she wanted her husband to leave. Life on land is chaotic and noisy as the incredible stories from sea begin to filter back, but life on the boat is quiet and bleak.
The film’s sound design comes into full force as Crowhurst finds himself desperately lonely and struggling to keep everything together physically and mentally. As his mind begins to unravel, so does the world around him. Gone is the score, replaced instead by eerie noises from the battered vessel; creaks and groans that slowly drive him towards madness. These are the moments where Firth is really given the chance to shine. Completely alone with just the sounds of his boat and the sea, he gives an incredible glimpse into what Crowhurst must have felt as he drifted thousands of miles away from home.
What starts off as sweet and entertaining shifts rapidly into a film full of courage and love. The Mercy is Firth at his very best: understated, vulnerable and very, very British.
CAST: Colin Firth, Rachel Weisz, David Thewlis, Ken Stott
DIRECTOR: James Marsh
WRITER: Scott Z. Burns
SYNOPSIS: The incredible story of amateur sailor Donald Crowhurst and his solo attempt to circumnavigate the globe.