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Film Reviews: The Mercy

dread: Firth
and Weisz


The Mercy

(12a) ★★★✩✩

COLIN FIRTH and Rachel Weisz in a stirring actors’ showcase drama from Oscar-winning director James Marsh (of Stephen Hawking biopic The Theory Of Everything)? Ahoy there, prime Bafta bait! Yet the awards have notably failed to bite.

The Mercy is based on a true story yet the tale of English amateur adventurer Donald Crowhurst is so compelling, it’s already been the subject of films, TV programmes, novels, plays, an opera, a poem and even an exhibition by Turner Prize nominee Tacita Dean. This merely adds to the pile.

It’s England, 1968. Failing businessman and sailing enthusiast Crowhurst (Firth) enters the first Golden Globe round-the-world singled-handed yacht race with dreams of banishing his midlife crisis, being a hero to his children and winning the much-needed prize money. An ill wind blows from the off as Crowhurst fails to complete his customised boat on time and is forced to leave long after optimal tidal conditions. He soon finds himself, literally, all at sea: boat damaged; mind increasingly leaky.

Realising ‘I can’t go on and I can’t go back’, Crowhurst takes a risky decision (only possible in an age before GPS satellite tracking) to fake his coordinates and progress.

One man (it’s always a man) pitting himself against the sea is well loved, not least by actors — think of a Golden Globe-nominated Robert Redford in 2013’s All Is Lost. However, Firth feels stiff and awkward, even by his own trademark standards, in the role — unhelped by the fact that at 57, he’s two decades older than Crowhurst was. His slide to insanity is badly paced while logistical details are odd and confusing. Rachel Weisz, meanwhile, is too glamorous and overqualified for the ‘brave wife left at home’ role. Their life feels as flimsy as a Boden catalogue shoot.

This is serviceable enough but to best enjoy the story, find 2006 documentary Deep Water instead.

The Verdict

Firth is all at sea but this retelling of Donald Crowhurst’s round-the-world adventure should still keep you hooked

Tad The Lost Explorer And The Secret Of King Midas

(U) ★★✩✩✩

WHAT? You don’t remember the original Tad The Explorer? That’s because the first instalment of this Spanish CG animation wasn’t released here. You can see why. Tad is a construction worker with an Indiana Jones hat who, inexplicably, is romantically involved with the world’s top archaeologist, Sara.

Accompanying their quest to recover King Midas’s necklace is a megalomaniac baddie, a comedy sidekick with an Elvis fixation and too many chases to compensate for the lack of propulsive storytelling. A feminist spin to the characterisation is a plus but this is something parents will stick on for the kids while they get on with something more gripping, like folding laundry.


(15) ★★★★★

ANOTHER chilly masterpiece from Russian director Andrey Zvyagintsev (Leviathan), winner of the Special Jury prize at Cannes, this drama centres on a toxic divorce. Spiky beauty Zhenya (Maryana Spivak) and her passive almost-ex-husband Boris (Aleksey Rozin) are impatient to start their new lives.

The only obstacle is their 12-year-old son Alyosha (Matvey Novikov), who neither of them wants. Then Alyosha runs away. ‘What a f***ing pain,’ groans his dad. The parents may be monsters but they’re monsters created by circumstances. Zvyagintsev layers on his themes of the inhumanity of man and the bleak effects of our self-obsessed culture, yet with the lightness of falling snow. A proper, serious drama for grown-ups

Also out: More new releases

Padman (12A)

Following Toilet: A Love Story, an unlikely comedy about India’s loo shortages, Bollywood megastar Akshay Kumar continues his socially conscious streak with a biopic of the man who invented a menstrual-pad-making machine.

Fifty Shades Freed (18)

Climax of the popular, if critically derided, trilogy based on EL James’s soft-porn bestsellers. Expect mild kinkiness, no penises (not even that of Jamie Dornan, above) and shots of Dakota Johnson looking for escape.

The 15:17 To Paris (15)

Reviews of Clint Eastwood’s latest, which tells the true story of an attempted terrorist train hijacking, are embargoed until release on Friday. And you don’t mess with Clint.