“The Whale” tackles themes of unconditional love and addiction. PHOTO CREDIT: IMDB
“The Whale” is Darren Aronofsky’s latest film, based on the stage play of the same name written by Samuel D. Hunter.
It stars Brendan Fraser as Charlie, a morbidly obese man who secludes himself in his apartment. His only consistent visitor is his friend Liz, played by Hong Chau, a nurse who discovers that Charlie has congestive heart failure and has less than a week to live. Knowing this Charlie decides to reconnect with his estranged daughter Ellie, played by Sadie Sink, before he passes.
I was initially interested in seeing this film due to all the buzz that was surrounding it after its premiere at the Venice International Film Festival back in September, where it received a full six minute standing ovation. This was mainly for Brendan Fraser and his performance, as people were noting this as his comeback to cinema after being absent from the big screen for years, and I have to say, what a comeback it is.
You can definitely tell that Fraser is giving it his all in every scene he’s in, as he makes Charlie come across as an endearing, kind-hearted and sympathetic character that the audience will be intrigued to follow. He also spent hours a day being kitted up with prosthetics that put an extra 300 pounds on him, which is crazy to just think about going through all that.
He’s all around amazing in this film, and people will walk out of this definitely remembering him and the dedication he brought to this role. This is not to downplay the supporting actors, as they are terrific as well. Chau was amazing in her performance, playing the stubborn but still kind-hearted opposite to Fraser which leads to some engaging interactions between the two, and is one of the strong points of the film.
She also spearheads one of the most memorable scenes in the movie where she has this emotionally charged conversation with a young missionary, but this something which I unfortunately can’t get into here since it contains major spoilers. (More incentive to go see the film, no?)
The same can be said about Sadie Sink, who does an excellent job at portraying Charlie’s cynical and aggressive daughter, which also leads to some great character interactions as well, especially towards the end of the film where things get very emotional.
On another more brief note, I also like some of the themes that this film tackles such as unconditional love and addiction, something which may resonate with certain viewers, especially if they or someone they know has gone through something similar to the characters here. However with these really strong elements there also comes others which unfortunately aren’t as fleshed out.
Over the course of the film we get to see some “exciting” locations such as Charlie’s living room, the porch, and even the guest bedroom, and in these spaces not much action occurs in them; mostly just dialogue. The lack of scenery and actions is something that I didn’t mind, but I’d imagine that some viewers may find the film a bit slow moving, or dare I even say boring at times.
There’s also nothing exciting or unique being done with the cinematography or the score to make scenes more interesting either. To me though this movie felt more like a stage play, which makes sense since it was adapted from one. However, I also feel that the film having one set and limited actors was a product of the pandemic, something I hope will be far behind in the rear-view mirror soon.
Still, I wished that the film took more advantage with being a film and told the story in a way that makes it more unique from the play.
Overall I’d give this film seven Brendan Frasers out of ten, a small and slow film, but one that packs amazing performances and emotion into it. Watch the film and see what you think of it!