You often see movies of successful feats, when an underdog achieves the unthinkable. However, what happens if the underdog is ill-prepared to undertake the challenge? He realizes that despite his zeal, sincerity, and good intentions, he cannot finish the task. Should he then abandon his plan? How would he face reality, having put everything on the line? What about the media and the supporters who love an underdog story? How would they react if he returned home?
This is the premise of The Mercy, Colin Firth‘s latest movie. In it he plays Donald Crowhurst, an inventor-busineman who was also an amateur sailor from Teignmouth, England. Upon learning about the upcoming around-the-world solo yacht race organised by the Sunday Times, he decided to register himself. He received funding from sponsors and a local businessman to build his trimaran (“Teignmouth Electron”) to compete in the race. Ill-prepared, and having to put his business and his house as a guarantee for the financing, Donald realised that he couldn’t return home to face his family, his supporters, and the media. He ended up giving an impression that he was further advanced in his journey, when in fact, he was languishing off the coast of South America.
The Mercy is thought-provoking and moving – but I find James Marsh‘s direction to be uneven at times. Scenes that depict Donald’s deteriorating mental health seem apologetic and fleeting – without giving the audience the magnitude of his situation. Maybe he is being considerate to his widow and children. The movie is also a perfect medium for Jóhann Jóhannsson – a composer from Iceland with his haunting, clean, and yet very effective composition. The movie is one of his last works before he passed away in February 2018.
Colin Firth is well-cast as Donald Crowhurst, and Rachel Weisz is also charming as Clare Crowhurst, Donald’s loving wife. Clare’s speech towards the end of the movie is also especially poignant – it’s true that we are quite addicted to happy-endings, to stories of underdog victories. However, we are also swift to judge and heap condemnation when the same identity that we put on a pedestal, makes mistakes and proves that they are in fact, just mere human. Like us.