The Whale is a 2022 American psychological drama film directed by Darren Aronofsky and starring Brendan Fraser. The film is based on a screenplay by Samuel D. Hunter adapting Hunter’s 2012 play of the same name. The film also stars Sadie Sink, Hong Chau, Ty Simpkins, and Samantha Morton. (Wikipedia)
The premise of The Whale is simple – Charlie (Fraser) is an extremely obese and reclusive English teacher who is trying to reconnect with his estranged daughter Ellie (Sink) for his last chance at redemption. The film is primarily set in a single location as Charlie is not exactly mobile. Charlie has a close friend (Chau) who takes care of his medical needs and early on, we are informed that he is dying due to congestive heart condition.
The Whale does an excellent job is slowly revealing to the audience, the state of affairs that Charlie is in. He is effectively disabled due to his obesity and it can get very depressing to watch his difficult life unfold before our eyes. Eventually, we are also told about how Charlie ended in this condition and how he became separated from his family. There’s also the added sub-plot of Thomas, the religious missionary who gets entangled with Charlie and Ellie.
Thematically, there is much going on here with anti-religious undertones being represented by Thomas. There is also the very issue of obesity itself as the film gives us an unflinchingly look at the condition. The fact that Fraser used prosthetics to achieve that look has come under the usual virtue signalling criticism, with accusations of ‘fat shaming’, slamming the film’s failure to cast a ‘fat’ actor and the like. All unfounded, in our humble opinion – after all, isn’t this what acting is all about?
The Whale is not an easy movie to watch but it certainly is a thought-provoking arthouse film. No doubt, Fraser deserves at least an Oscar nomination for his impressive performance. Recommended.
In Singapore cinemas on 22nd December | Read our review of Drive My Car.
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