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Film Review

Deep Water

(September 08, 2007) A suspenseful documentary? Absolutely! Many remember Francis Chichester, who in 1967 was the first man to sail solo around the world in his boat, The Gypsy Moth. Chichester accomplished the seemingly impossible, with only one stop enroute, and was hailed and knighted for his heroic 226 day voyage. One year later, the London Times sponsored a contest and offered a 5,000 prize to the first person who could sail around the world without stopping. Eight experienced sailors and one week end sailor, Donald Crowhurst, accepted the challenge. Deep Water is about that race, and in particular, the strange and haunting story of Donald Crowhurst.

Some of the boats had cameras and tape recorders aboard, including Crowhurst's, and this footage and the recordings are used extensively, with great impact, coupled with outstanding cinematography. There are long, highly interesting interviews with Crowhurst's wife and son, and the wife of one of the other entrants, a French sailor, as well as friends of Crowhurst. Tilda Swinton narrates much of the story, quoting from Crowhurst's diary and logs. What happens to someone who is alone at sea for many months on end? Some manage and others come apart. Although it is a cliche to say that the sea tests men, it does, and so does the isolation. And as one observer says, it tests the mind as much as the body. This is a tragic and poignant story, extremely well told. This compelling film never drags, and there is a constant sense of tension. There is much more here, but I do not want to reveal the many surprises. Deep Water is very very accomplished, one of the best documentaries that I have ever seen, and surely will be a strong Oscar contender. If anything should be seen on the big screen, this is it. Playing for at least the next two weeks at the Clay.

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