The drama revolves around Donald Crowhurst (Colin Firth), a family man, inventor and amateur sailor, who risks his home and business for glory in a 1966 sailing race round the world. Hoping his sailing inventions would help him finish the race quickest, he built his own boat leaving 2 months later than the rest of the competitors. The boat was hastily made with little money and the sail was destined for disaster as soon as he left.
The story is an underdog sensation and the films focus is largely on Crowhurst's press officer, played by David Thewlis, who’s role it is to drum up media attention, constantly pressuring Crowhurst’ family for a story while he is away. Surprisingly, the conflict is lessoned the day Crowhurst leaves. The characters on land are self-interested and rightly focused on the race with land and sea never combining to form an unfolding plot.
The drama then rests on the puppy dog murmuring of Colin Firth, who hasn’t quite left his role from The King's Speech behind. Unfortunately, Firth doesn’t have the spectrum to play the mental trial suffered by Crowhurst. He is too mums favourite, too familiar to play a man falling into a mental chasm of certain doom. James Marsh, the director, tries his best to carry the story with scenes of hallucination and hope but once again a clash of styles leaves it unconvincing.
The Mercy is desperate to be a story of mental struggle but is constrained by its own obligation to be a historical drama; the domestic 60s setting clouds the drama and efforts to show Crowhurst as a family man only distance itself as a film that looks into the nuances of mankind’s struggle with isolation. Still, your mum will like it.