Freelance writer, born and bred in South Australia.
Published March 7th 2018
A disastrous account of the Golden Globe Race
Please note this review contains spoilers.
It is the year of 1968. Donald Crowhurst is a husband to a patient wife and a father to three loving children. Donald decides that he is going to embark on a dangerous, groundbreaking adventure of a lifetime. He is going to sail solo around the world.
Despite only being a hobbyist and having an under-prepared boat for the voyage, Donald departs for the lengthy trip. It is clear before leaving that he has fallen uncertain of whether he can accomplish the task at hand. His family are left behind, innocently unaware of the difficulties he is about to face.
Donald sails almost immediately into trouble. His boat encounters damaging storms and is repeatedly flooded with water.
The intense pressure from sponsors to complete the race drags Donald into a tangled web of lies, where he fools the media and his followers on land into believing that he is gaining significantly more ground than what he really is. He eventually loses his pride and mind.
As more time passes, more issues with the boat arise, more lies are created, and Donald slips into complete madness. He is depressed and hallucinating. What began as a cheerful story about a man wanting to have a great adventure turns dramatically into a dark account of life at sea.
At the completion of the film, the audience is left bewildered at the events that have just taken place in front of them. Yet, the tragic storyline fails to trigger any strong, sad emotions. What could have been a tear-jerking, shattering conclusion, seems halfhearted.
The dramatic theme of suicide is underdeveloped. It is presented as an irrational, hasty act from Donald that had no prior warning signs. Perhaps this is intended by filmmakers to show how spontaneous the suicide of a madman can be. Although it certainly provides viewers with a shock, it lacks in giving full insight into the lead up to his demise. It also removes credibility from Donald's character, so his final words are quick to be passed off as crazy, rather than given second thought.
The portrayal of Donald's wife as a composed and sophisticated woman remains consistent throughout the entirety of the movie. But the audience's hearts call for more in the final scenes. A moment exposing her breaking down after Donald's death would have been successful in captivating the audience's hearts and emphasising the effect of his passing. Instead, viewers see her have a minor dispute with media, but still predominantly maintain composure. This unphased attitude seems fabricated and unrealistic.
Another section of the film that is confusing for viewers is when Donald finds himself briefly on land during the voyage. His time there is short-lived, as police send him back on his boat. However, the scene remains stuck in my mind due to how confusing it was. Why did the police have dinner with Donald? Why did they look so sinister? It doesn't seem to make sense. Is the lack of sense what the filmmakers were attempting to show?
Despite some disappointing weaknesses, the film cannot be denied as one of the greatest sailing movies ever created.
A personal favourite scene of mine is mid-way through the movie when Donald encounters a frightening storm on open seas. The thoughtful cinematography and aerial shots of the boat demonstrate the ferociousness of the weather and the harsh reality of such an adventure.
Filmmakers have made the correct choice to showcase this relatively unknown, but remarkable true story. If you are seeking a quality film to watch this Autumn, look no further than The Mercy. But don't expect to be inspired. The plot is calamitous and somewhat dispiriting.