Deep Water is a documentary that tells the story of Donald Crowhurst’s 1968 attempt to win a British race to become the first sailor to complete a solo, nonstop circumnavigation of the globe. Crowhurst was quickly in over his head, but he was propelled by his dream and, perhaps more importantly, by a crazy financial arrangement that meant failure would cost his family dearly. He was in a bind, seemingly forced to choose between bankruptcy and almost unimaginable risk.
Going into the screening of Deep Water, I pretty much knew the broad outlines of Crowhurst’s story. (If you watch the trailer, below, you’ll know the same.) But that knowledge didn’t make the film any less watchable. The story is itself riveting. And the visuals—including amazing shots from the race—are arresting. The world of yachting is pretty foreign to me, but directors Louise Osmond and Jerry Rothwell made it seem more accessible than I would’ve thought possible.
But it’s the interviews that make Deep Water a truly satisfying documentary. Crowhurst’s widow and one of his friends provide complex, and sometimes disturbing, points of view. (What should you do when your loved one’s dream is possibly foolish?) We hear, too, from one of Crowhurst’s sons, who was a young child when the race took place. An adult now, of course, it’s entirely clear that Crowhurst’s race profoundly shaped the son’s life. Interesting perspectives are also provided by one of Crowhurst’s competitors as well as the wife of another. (This competitor’s journals are well-used, too.) And Tilda Swenson provides interested and engaging narration.
Deep Water gave me quite a bit to consider. For that, it’s highly recommended. I give it three stars.