Crowhurst

Review by Hannah Woodhead @goodjobliz

Directed by

Simon Rumley

Starring

Amy Loughton Justin Salinger

Anticipation.

Will it be any better than James Marsh’s rival biopic?

Enjoyment.

Unexpectedly trippy, but nothing we haven’t seen before.

In Retrospect.

The seasickness takes a while to get over.

Ill-fated sailor Donald Crowhurst gets a second biopic in as many years, this time from director Simon Rumley.

Typical – you wait 40 years for a biopic about ill-fated sailor Donald Crowhurst, then two come along at once. Between James Marsh’s glossy The Mercy and Simon Rumley’s more straight-laced Crowhurst, the story of a British businessman who attempted to single-handedly sail around the world in an attempt to win prize money to save his ailing company has clearly caught the imagination of filmmakers in recent years.

Though The Mercy beat Crowhurst to the punch in cinemas, Rumley’s film actually predates its big-name counterpart, and takes a more unconventional approach to the source material. Lensed with a fuzzy ’60s sensibility, it feels less like a film made in 2015 and more like a relic from a bygone era, opening on the ocean with Justin Sallinger’s titular Crowhurst receiving a message from across the Atlantic. From there it backtracks to fill us in on the circumstances concerning Crowhurst’s misguided expedition, and follows a fairly linear narrative as he departs and inevitably begins to lose his marbles.

Given that he’s on screen for almost every scene, Sallinger puts in a solid turn as the doomed sailor, his mild-mannered buffoonery facing a rapid descent into unnerving madness, conveyed through trippy visuals, hallucinations and a lot of screaming. It’s a somewhat heavy-handed depiction of Crowhurst’s mental devolution, and the lo-fi nature of the film means it feels like a strange cross between an experimental movie and a BBC primetime drama.

The real problem with Rumley’s slightly clumsy film is the same problem which its StudioCanal stablemate also failed to recognise: the facts of the Donald Crowhurst story are stranger than any fictional imagining. These recent attempts to make order out of chaos are doomed to feel trite, failing to recognise that the story of an unlucky (and fairly foolish) man battling the elements with a foregone conclusion is not particularly gripping, and arguably the greatest tragedy of Crowhurst’s folly was the young family he left behind.

Published 23 Mar 2018

Tags: Donald Crowhurst

Anticipation.

Will it be any better than James Marsh’s rival biopic?

Enjoyment.

Unexpectedly trippy, but nothing we haven’t seen before.

In Retrospect.

The seasickness takes a while to get over.

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