“Pipedreams are good” said a wise man a decade or so ago. That man of course was David Brent and while his usual outlooks on life sometimes leave a lot to be desired, this one strangely has much pertinence to The Mercy, the new British drama biopic from director James Marsh about one man’s quest to follow his dreams no matter what the consequences or how big the cost to him and those around him. All the ingredients are here for a stirring, emotional drama but like the ocean our dream-chaser has to navigate everything is just a bit damp
Firth plays Donald Crowhurst, a man who has a dream: to circumnavigate the globe on a boat as part of the Sunday Times Golden Globe race in 1968. Spurred on by his love of boats, the ocean and those who have dared to take on the same race in previous years, he manages to get the backing to take a step closer to fulfilling his desires. His wife (Weisz) is as supportive as she can be as her husband prepares for his start date but as the big day looms large she and her family, and indeed the local town folk, begin to wonder whether Crowhurst has what it tak to defy the odds and put himself at the mercy of the oceans ahead.
Marsh, who enjoyed his greatest success a few years ago with The Theory of Everything, keeps the film engaging throughout and along with the work of DOP Eric Gautier (Into The Wild) brings Crowhurst’s descent into madness to the fore with a flourish. But such is the nature of the story – particularly once we get out to sea – that its dramatic punch is lacking, for the most part, rarely hitting the marks that it seeks to hit, and writer Scott Z. Burns just doesn’t quite know how to keep it all together and the film becomes a little monotonous towards the finale when it should be soaring.
In actuality, it’s Rachel Weisz’s troubles at home that serve as the most compelling aspect of the film with one scene, in particular, carrying more weight and resonance than many of those with Crowhurst.
Weisz, always such a reliable performer, is at her stellar best here once more and brings warmth and humility to proceedings; while Firth is similarly impressive here even if he has been much better. Ably aided by some excellent turns by David Thewlis as a savvy reporter and Ken Stott as Crowhurst’s local sponsor and the ensemble as a collective is well rounded.
While The Mercy does a good job of portraying one man’s desperate attempts to make his dreams a reality, no matter the price, it never quite hits the mark the way it hopes. Good performances from the cast keep things ticking over nicely but the whole exercise is only sporadically worthwhile.
Scott J.Davis | ★★1/2
Biography, Drama | UK, 2018 | 12A | 9th February 2018 (UK) | Studiocanal UK | Dir.James Marsh | Colin Firth, Rachel Weisz, David Thewlis, Mark Gatiss, Andrew Buchan, Ken Stott