The film, based on a true story, sees them play married couple Donald and Claire Crowhurst whose family is tested when he decides to enter the Sunday Times Golden Globe Race – a single-handed, round-the-world sailing competition.
However, Don soon finds the task a lot more than he can handle as an amateur sailor and starts lying about his route in order to save face in front of his sponsors, the press and his children who look up to him.
The film certainly feels like a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions and Weisz agree.
“I think it is it is like a Shakespearean tragic hero,” the actress tells Yahoo Movies. “It’s lots of different ones, I mean Lear going mad near the end of his life and I could keep going.
“It’s a human being who has very noble intent but is doing the right things for the wrong reasons, and then there is a moment when something’s too late, and they can’t go backwards, and that sort of too late thing is always tragic.”
Firth says the comparison to Shakespearean tragedies is “a perfect observation.”
“I’ve often been careful that I don’t want to make our story sound grandiose by saying it but it is right,” the actor says. “Someone who had asked me, it was actually a family member, who said ‘why would you choose a story of failure?’ and I thought you could ask me that if I was playing Hamlet or King Lear or one of the Greek [heroes], you know, Ajax or something.
“The great studies of the human condition are the stories that end tragically. I think it’s fine to tell stories about heroic success,” he continues, “that is a story of what’s possible and what can be achieved, but I think if you really want to look at ourselves and study what conflicts we have and how we fall short of things, I think those are the stories that go the deepest.”
Both actors are careful to not criticise the risky actions of Don – for leaving his wife and children for several months with limited financial support – within a modern framework.
“I have a friend whose husband is a war correspondent and she saw the film and she said to me “I don’t understand, when I had children I said to him that’s it no you’re not going that’s it!” That’s not this story,” Weisz explains.
“This is a story of, well it’s complicated…perhaps our story tells the notion that she felt that if she had stopped him from going then perhaps he wouldn’t have forgiven her, like if you really stop someone from living their dream maybe they are not going to want to be with you anymore.
“So it’s really complicated. Perhaps a little more modern, I think Claire is a woman of her time,” Weisz argues.
“Yes they are both people of their time,” Firth continues, “but I think it’s a really interesting question…is it men that need to do this or is it men who have got to do this because of the way society was coded?
“There are women sailors and women explorers, women war correspondents…Men don’t have a preserve on the extinct to do this, or on the talent to do it, I just think it’s who’s been able to do it.”
On the subject of female empowerment, Rachel Weisz confirmed that she would be attending the 2018 BAFTAs (set to take place on Sunday February 18) and wearing black to support the Time’s UP movement, but Firth said he would not be going to the ceremony.
“I’m going to present,” the actress said. “I believe all people of my gender are going to be in black for what I understand.”
The Mercy is in cinemas on Friday February 9