14 June 2024
Brendan Fraser Credit: Courtesy of A24

Film Review – The Whale (2022)

Ever since it’s festival premiere in 2022, Darren Aronofsky’s The Whale has come with a big entourage. Glowing reviews, outstanding performances and award nominations.

Now 2023, A24 Films extend their UK distributed releases  finally releasing the film here. Does it deserve the buzz that has followed it since that premiere? Yes and no.

Darren Aronofsky has pushed the boat when it comes his lead characters to the limits. A breaking point that is sometimes physical, sometimes psychological.

In reality we are guilty of our own demise. The Whale pushes our protagonist Charlie to a certain death thanks to over eating.

The film based on a stage play by Samuel D Hunter. Who also adapts that stage play for the screen.

Brendan Fraser is Charlie, is housebound morbidly obese man. He became reclusive all thanks to a drastic event in his life (which you do learn about as the movie progresses). He’s also a gay man, who deserted his wife and daughter for one of his former students.

That drastic event pushed Charlie to find comfort in over eating to a point, he’s now knocking on heaven’s door. His blood pressure is through the roof, his carer and nurse Liz ( Hong Chau) knows his death is only days away.

Charlie refuses to go to hospital. He knows his time is near and the one person he wants to do right, his daughter Elle (Sadie Sink). He wants to reconnect with her. She has so much resentment towards and refuses to forgive her dad.

He’s also an online English Teacher when he speaks to his students, he pretends his webcam is not working.

He also offers to help Elle’s in her school work. Her education is falling apart, she’s constantly in trouble with her teachers, she’s a loner too. Will she ever forgive.

The Whale is not a terrible film, it’s not the best film either. The whole film happens within the confines of Charlie’s apartment or just outside on the door. It feels very stagey and this actually give off a tone of something that’s more TV movie than a cinematic feature.

It relay’s on strong performances to pull the film through. Sink and Chau do that convincingly and so does Samantha Morton who plays Charlie’s ex-wife. Making a cameo type part role when her ex-husband loses control of everything.

Brendan Fraser is fantastic, very magnetic in nature. Does he deserve the Oscar, I’m  still very undecided. He merits the nomination at the minimum.

Fraser delivers a lot respect to those in society who suffer like Charlie with Obesity. He shows there struggles, there demons, those little every day things we take for granted are near impossible for Charlie with the aid of a carer or some walker or chair.

In a recent interview Fraser spoke about he wanted to give a genuine performance. Someone who acts and looks genuinely obese not a thinner actor in a fat suit. A lot of the make up is a mix of Special effects and make up. He took advice from societies who support obese people.

The whale could be named after Jonah And The Whale. Some may think it’s a metaphor of Charlie referring to his size, it’s actually his favourite story.

If anything Charlie’s house is like The Whale that swallowed Jonah. His grief is that falling off Jonah the ship. The house is the belly of the whale,eating him up from the inside.

The time we have with him on the screen is his redemption.

The religious theme is also extended in a scene between a character played Ty Simpkins. The young actor plays an evangelist missionary who wants to ‘save’ Charlie who clearly doesn’t want ‘saved’. His inclusion feels a little pointless after a coupe of scenes, it does connect to someone close to Charlie.

Simpkin‘s character exchanges with Elle are more interesting.

The Whale ending leaves you cringing or laughing out loud depending how ridiculous you look at it.


Drama | USA, 2022 | 15 |Cinema | 3rd February 2023 (UK) | A24 | Dir. Darren Aronofsky | Brendan Fraser, Sadie Sink, Hong Chau, Ty Simpkins, Samantha Morton

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