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The Mercy

Movie review by
Michael Ordona, Common Sense Media
The Mercy Movie Poster Image
True-life sailing misadventure is mild in every way.
  • NR
  • 2018
  • 112 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

No positive messages of note. People (including family members) are horribly abandoned and betrayed.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Main character's wife tries to hold the family together in his absence; he behaves foolishly.

Violence

Sailing mishaps include character accidentally cutting hand, lancing a boil. Mild peril at sea. Suicide is implied.

Sex
Language

Infrequent use of words including "Christ" and "damn."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Mercy is about a real-life sailing contest in the 1960s that becomes a high-profile mystery after inventor/amateur sailor Donald Crowhurst (Colin Firth) tries to sail solo around the world. Left behind are his wife (Rachel Weisz) and their children. Crowhurst experiences peril and extreme difficulties on the journey and makes a fateful decision. Expect very mild language ("Christ," "damn fool") and sailing mishaps such as a character accidentally cutting a hand and lancing a boil. There's also a discreetly conveyed descent into madness and the implication of suicide.

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What's the story?

In THE MERCY, it's 1968 England, and amateur sailor/inventor Donald Crowhurst (Colin Firth) enters a contest to sail around the world solo. Left behind are his wife, Clare (Rachel Weisz), and their children. Crowhurst experiences extreme difficulties during his voyage and makes a fateful decision. And along the way, his journey goes from national adventure to high-profile mystery.

Is it any good?

This fact-based drama is too reserved for its subject matter. The Mercy ducks telling details of Crowhurst's life, starting out as a "beautiful dreamer" aspirational drama and then wandering and stalling -- just as the inexperienced seaman apparently did himself (the real story was reportedly considerably darker than what's presented here in such genteel fashion). The Mercy is the kind of film in which people say things such as, "Would not all that accrue to the greater value of the company?" but never swear, not even when key safety features fail and they face likely death (or have to go on the dole when abandoned by their sole breadwinner). The film feels too nice to delve into the character of a man who would make the disastrous bets that the real Crowhurst did. And it's certainly too mild to viscerally depict peril at sea or a possible descent into madness.

On the acting front, Firth is just fine, though he's constrained by the limitations of the filmmaking approach. Weisz is quietly truthful as a wife helplessly watching her husband undertake a fool's errand, betting their entire financial future (and his life) on it. But the film's failure to get its hands dirty leaves us wondering why we should care about Crowhurst's quest. He makes poor decisions and abandons and deceives those he cares about, and the filmmaking doesn't get us deep enough inside him to take the trip. Worse yet, after the misadventure's conclusion, the film voices a rant against the media and the citizens who were duped into rooting for the man -- as if what happened was somehow their fault, rather than his. The Mercy's subject matter is undeniably interesting -- in fact, a smaller, indie version of this story has also been made -- but this seafaring film is, frankly, too dry.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the messages of The Mercy. What do you think filmmakers hoped viewers would take away from watching? Why? Do you think they succeeded?

  • The main character leaves his wife and family behind, literally betting their entire financial future on a contest for which he doesn't seem qualified. Do you sympathize with him? Do you root for him? Why or why not?

  • Did you feel Donald's peril at sea? Did you fear for his life? Was it a visceral experience for you?

  • What's the appeal of the survival genre? How does this film compare with other survival-at-sea movies?

Movie details

For kids who love dramas

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