Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5.
United Kingdom, 2006. Pathé Pictures International, UK Film Council, FilmFour, APT Films, Stirfried Films, Darlow Smithson Productions. Cinematography by Nina Kellgren. Produced by Al Morrow, Jonny Persey, John Smithson. Music by Harry Escott, Molly Nyman. Production Design by Rupert Allan. Film Editing by Ben Lester.
London’s Sunday Times came up with a brilliant publicity stunt in 1968 that captured the country’s imagination: a round-the-world cruise by a singly-manned sailboat that would take home a prize for being the first to return to British shores. Nine men entered the contest, the last of them a middle-class scientist and family man whose lack of breeding or bankroll made him a populist favourite in the media. Immediately taken up as a hero by a publicity agent and splashed across the front pages, Donald Crowhurst became a matter of concern when his boat wasn’t fully ready by the race’s deadline in October of 1968, a date set by the race’s organizers to avoid the impossibly rough weather that the contestants would encounter around the southern shores of Africa. While the other entries raced off toward the finish line, Crowhurst lagged behind and became deeply affected by the public pressure and the life of solitude on the open water (the race would take months) to a very disturbing extent. This fascinating, deeply chilling documentary is a journey to the deepest, darkest parts of the heart, ably told with narrative precision and a wealth of stock footage (most of the men had cameras with them on their boats and took lots of gorgeous images of their voyages). Narrated mellifluously by Tilda Swinton, it packs the same punch as the best action movies and concludes with a terrifying burn as it encapsulates the political and personal for an unforgettable experience.