The Mercy is a British biographical drama starring Colin Firth and Rachel Weisz, and directed by James Marsh – the Academy Award winning director of Theory of Everything.
The film tells the story of Donald Cowhurst, an amateur sailor who undertook the Sunday Times Golden Globe race in 1968, the trials and tribulations he undergoes while being alone at sea and his attempts to cover up his failure.
It is clear that director James Marsh has in interest in telling real stories, and a different perspective on a man who undertook a mission beyond his capabilities is definitely something to praise.
We are used to success stories where regular people conquer the impossible and come at the other end as a different, stronger person, but we rarely hear of those who have failed.
In this context, The Mercy does pose some interesting questions. Why do we only hear about stories of success? Are the stories of those who failed still worth telling? Unfortunately, based solely on this film, the answer is no.
The film most definitely has potential. The director is undoubtedly great at telling stories, Colin Firth is an actor with a track record of achieving new heights when portraying a real life character- as demonstrated by The King’s Speech, and the rest of the supporting cast is also stellar.
However, despite all these factors, the film falls short on many different levels.
Firstly, the short duration of the film makes it feel rushed. It feels like the actors couldn’t achieve their full potential because there wasn’t enough material.
I would have liked to see more of the relationship between Donald Crowhurst and his wife, and more of Colin Firth’s engagement with the character. But because the time is short I felt that the film lacked the power to make an impression and ended up being disappointing, particularly because it is one of those films that is supposed to make an impression.
Secondly, the scenes that did make it into the film could have been explored in more depth. Donald Crowhurst has been the subject of many writers’ and film makers’ obsessions, so there is obviously something fascinating about his story that deserves to be told.
However, the film fails to put that across. Rachel Weisz shows her acting prowess in a final speech about her husband’s psyche, but it is difficult to sympathise with her because we are not shown all the complex psychological elements she talks about.
Firth’s time on screen focuses briefly on the notion of mental exhaustion, delirium and loneliness-induced irrationality, but not enough to make you care.
All in all, The Mercy felt like a film that was a bit half-arsed and didn’t achieve its full potential. It wasn’t bad and you can see that the talent and raw material was there, but it still gets a meh out of ten. 2/5