Stephen stretching his fingers and why it makes many people cry:
One of my favourite aspects of Peter Weir’s adaptation of the Aubreyad into Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World is Weir’s attention to detail, such as this detail here: Stephen stretching his fingers before playing. Like many of the details Weir includes, this one is easy to miss but summarizes important aspects of canon not explicitly included in the film. Unlike the other details, this one makes a lot of people cry when they realize what it means.
If one hasn’t read HMS Surprise, it might be difficult to understand why such a simple gesture causes so much grief to avid followers of the Aubreyad. But noticing this detail will make anyone who got through the third novel in the Aubrey-Maturin series at the very least wince in remembering why Stephen’s fingers are stiffer than they used to be.
Long story short, Stephen, while on an intelligence mission in Spain, is captured and tortured by the French intelligence at Port Mahon. Even after he is rescued, his time on the rack leaves him with permanent damage to his sinews that leave him nearly incapacitated for the duration of his recovery, and perhaps contribute to his lifelong clumsiness on board ships (although this might just be the result of the fact that he’s the very definition of a landlubber).