The Mercy is a new film directed by James Marsh (The Theory of Everything) and starring Colin Firth, Rachel Weisz, and David Thewlis. It tells the true story of Donald Crowhurst, an amateur sailor who attempted to circumnavigate the world alone.
This movie manages to be thoroughly interesting, largely due to the compelling characters at the heart of the story. The protagonist and his family are very likable, and as such, it is easy to get involved with their journey. Crowhurst’s wife, Clare, is a particularly interesting character. She is given a surprisingly rich and developed arc, which is unusual for a film of this nature.
The pacing also helps the movie maintain interest. The story really hooks you in the beginning and never lets go, taking you along for the ride. At times, it does begin to feel slightly rushed, as large periods of time begin to pass without any indication to the audience. This seems to be a deliberate move, though, meant to further build audience sympathy.
That being said, the movie is weighed down by the fact that it can’t decide on a single tone. There are multiple tonal shifts, and they are rather distracting. The first half is a pretty straightforward family drama. Then at the second half, when Crowhurst begins his journey, it becomes a survival thriller. All would be good and well if the film didn’t keep cutting back to the family genre aspects.
Also, to reiterate, this movie is based on a true story. If you have a tendency to do research before watching a film, it is probably best not to do so in this case. If you know the outcome before going in, it ruins the suspense that the movie is trying to build. That shows another issue, though. Films that are based on real life events should realize that some or many audience members may know the story already. They should not be dependent on the audience’s obliviousness.
However, the movie is very well-executed as a whole. The visuals are quite strong, especially during the second half. A few scenes in the first half were somewhat oversaturated, but this wasn’t majorly distracting. The production design is solid too. The filmmakers did a good job of creating a sense of claustrophobia in the boat. Additionally, the score by the late Jóhann Jóhannson complements the film well.
The actors do a fine job in their roles as well. Colin Firth brings his usual charisma to his leading role. He is a lot more subtle than usual, and that is refreshing to see. Rachel Weisz is a standout, too. She has some of the best and most affecting scenes in the movie. Firth and Weisz had great chemistry when they were on-screen together.
Overall, The Mercy was a solid film. Although it had quite a few uneven moments, the story and characters were compelling as a whole. This will be a crowd-pleaser.
The Mercy is now playing in select theaters and will be showing nationwide for a one night only event on December 6.