Deep Water

Critics Consensus

Equal parts mystery and biography, Deep Water is both an engrossing documentary and an affecting treatise on human folly and obsession.



Total Count: 55


Audience Score

User Ratings: 4,961
User image

Deep Water Photos

Movie Info

Co-directors Louise Osmond and Jerry Rothwell's historical documentary Deep Water chronicles one of the most infamous nautical tragedies of the past several decades. In autumn 1968, Britisher Donald Crowhurst, the proprietor of a down-and-out manufacturing business for marine electrical components, avowed to enter the first Golden Globe sailing competition -- a nonstop, one-man circumnavigational race against eight other competitors. In financing the boat via a deal with English entrepreneur Stanley Best, Crowhurst used his house as collateral. Relinquishing the voyage, or failing to complete it, would thus have instantly rendered Crowhurst homeless and driven his family into Chapter 11. But the voyage was doomed from the start: Crowhurst failed to finish building the craft prior to his October 31st departure, but set sail just the same, and thus sealed his own grim fate. Indeed, two weeks after Crowhurst sailed out of Devon, the boat began to leak substantially; recognizing that a trip into the Southern Ocean could spell disaster, a desperate Crowhurst radioed home with indications of phony distances and falsified his logbook; he then made an illegal pit stop in Argentina to repair the boat, and joined up with the rest of the competitors on the opposite side of Cape Horn, in the Atlantic. When Robin Knox-Johnston won the overall competition, Crowhurst and Nigel Tetley went head-to-head to win 5,000 pounds for the fastest voyage; Crowhurst recognized that a victory would yield scrutiny of his logbooks and unveil his deceptions to the world; he thus intended to preserve his reputation by coming in second. He didn't count, however, on Tetley's boat capsizing -- which led to Crowhurst's own victory. Foreseeing disaster, Crowhurst decided to end his life by drowning himself. In telling Crowhurst's sad story, Osmond and Rothwell intercut narration from Crowhurst's journals, archival film, and interviews with the sailor's family, friends, and colleagues. What emerges is a portrait of a man sinking rapidly into a pit of despair as he comes face to face with his own darkest nightmares of personal failure. ~ Nathan Southern, Rovi

Watch it now


News & Interviews for Deep Water

Critic Reviews for Deep Water

All Critics (55) | Top Critics (23)

  • The details just get stranger and stranger.

    Jan 4, 2008 | Rating: 3/4
  • As directed by Louise Osmond and Jerry Rothwell, the movie breezes along at a highly watchable clip, thanks to fluid, affecting intercutting of archival, black-and-white footage and present-day interviews.

    Nov 3, 2007 | Full Review…
  • Some beautiful shots give unexpected texture to the film, such as an underwater capture of a boat from below, with prisms of light surrounding it. And its final image is a quiet heartbreaker.

    Sep 21, 2007 | Rating: 3.5/4
  • For this gripping and amazing documentary, such truth emerges not just from the facts, but also the poetry of men who redefine themselves in a risky race on small sailboats.

    Sep 14, 2007 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…
  • Deep Water is a stunning documentary that not only beautifully elucidates a nearly forgotten incident but touches on crucial themes involving isolation, sanity, self-worth, impossible dreams, the nature of heroism and limits of human endurance.

    Sep 10, 2007
  • One of this year's better studies of the human soul.

    Sep 7, 2007 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Deep Water

  • May 12, 2012
    Deep Water is one of the poignant documentaries that I have seen. This film tells the true story of Donald Crowhurst, and Englishman who risked everything in a circumnavigational race around the world. Crowhurst was near bankrupt and needed the winnings of the race to save himself. Deep Water is a flawless documentary and one of the best documentaries in recent memory. This is a true, courageous story, one that is also foolish, but one that also should be admired because of the will Crowhurst had to do everything to save his family. Deep Water is a great sailing documentary about a spectacular race, a true story that is captivating even though it is suicide. I loved this film, thought it was a powerful film from start to finish. If you enjoy a great documentary, then this is the perfect film for you to watch. A flawless film that tells a great story, Deep Water is truly a unique documentary. Brilliantly paced and directed, Deep Water looks at Crowhurts attempt and ultimate failure in attempting the race. The human emotion in recounting the decisions behinds Donald Crowhurst's failed race attempt is apparent, and it adds so much to this documentary. A brilliant, sad documentary Deep Water is a film that must be seen. This a great film from start to finish, one that tells a poignant story about a man who risked everything, and ultimately lost everything.
    Alex r Super Reviewer
  • Apr 15, 2012
    Surely one of the best documentary films of all time. Part documentary, part mystery, part drama, this film takes the viewer on an amazing journey. I've seen this film dozens of times, and each time I see it I'm moved. What is so compelling about this film is the way it explores what it means to be human so deeply and nakedly. This isn't a movie merely about an ocean voyage or a historical event or even a tragedy. It's really about the limitations we have as human beings and how devastating isolation and lonliness can be. The odyssey of Donald Crowhurst during his 9 months or so at sea is absolutely spellbinding, and heartbreaking. This is a rare film. Incredible.
    Mark H Super Reviewer
  • Feb 16, 2009
    a fascinating documentary on the first nonstop singlehanded sailing race around the world, the sunday times golden globe race held in 1968-69, before gps and most satellite communications. the race was open to all comers regardless of experience. what started as a grand adventure ended tragically for most of the 9 contestants. if u don't know this heartbreaking story already i don't want to spoil it so enough said.
    Stella D Super Reviewer
  • Aug 12, 2008
    [font=Century Gothic]Between 1577 and 1581, Francis Drake and crew circumnavigated the globe and for his trouble he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth I. During 1966-1967, Francis Chichester sailed around the world solo with a stopover in Australia for refitting and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II. Since that apparently was not daring enough, a contest was announced for the following year to sail solo non-stop around the world and nine men responded to the challenge.[/font] [font=Century Gothic][/font] [font=Century Gothic]"Deep Water" is a haunting documentary about the madness and loneliness of the long distance explorer and the need for accomplishment. The movie focuses on the least likely of the contestants, Donald Crowhurst, engineer by trade and father of five, who in order to get financing for his self-designed catamaran, signed a contract saying in effect that he would be ruined if he did not start or dropped out early. Unlike his competitors, he was not an experienced sailor and almost missed the deadline on October 31, 1968 to set sail. That was the least of his troubles(Footage that he shot attests to this) as he took on water which was doable in calm waters but not if he continued into the turbulent South Atlantic. Since giving up was not a viable option, he came up with a third option...[/font]
    Walter M Super Reviewer

Deep Water Quotes

News & Features