The Whale – Film Review

Director: Darren Aronofsky

Writer: Samuel D. Hunter

Starring: Brendan Fraser, Sadie Sink, Hong Chau, Samantha Morton, Ty Simpkins

Rating: ★★★★

It’s taken ten years for Darren Aronofsky’s adaptation of Samuel D. Hunter’s play The Whale, to get made. The problem was finding someone to play the lead character, Charlie. Aronofsky couldn’t find a suitable actor, until he saw a trailer for a film with Brendan Fraser in a supporting role, and realised he would be perfect. The result is a dark look at life with an equally dark sense of humour.

Charlie teaches an online course, where he never has his camera on. That’s so his students can’t see how overweight he is. Living alone, after the death of the love of his life, Charlie has turned to comfort eating, ending up weighing around 600 pounds. He’s shut himself off from the rest of the world, with only Liz (Hong Chau) as a friend. She’s also a nurse who looks after Charlie. With the eating taking a toll on his health, Liz believes Charlie only has a few days left to live, and in that time he wants to set things right with his daughter, who he hasn’t spoken to in eight years.

As everyone seems to be talking about, this is a massive return for Brendan Fraser, who has spent years out of the spotlight, appearing in smaller roles and the TV series Doom Patrol in the meantime. There’s no exaggeration to say that this is the best performance of his career. All of the praise is completley deserved and it’s a gripping and emotional portrayal of guilt, depression, and coming to terms with your own death. You really feel for him, and Fraser gives it absolutely everything.

Likewise Hong Chau is brilliant in the film. She’s Charlie’s only friend, and she cares for him deeply. Their relationship feels real and she does a great job at bringing her to life. There’s brilliant interactions, not just between Liz and Charlie, but also when she warns a missionary, Thomas (Ty Simpkins) from trying to convert him, which is both funny and heartbreaking as she retells the story of Charlie’s boyfriend’s death. The rest of the cast is also great, with excellent performaces and natural dialogue, making the dark drama sink in and the jokes click at all the right points.

The story is about life, and how things don’t turn out the way you expect, and at the same time there’s still time to make an impact. What drives Charlie in what could be his final days is his relationship with his daughter, and no matter how bad their relationship may seem there’s hope that it could work out. The play was inspired by one of Samuel D. Hunter’s students. After he asked them to write something honest, one of them said they need to learn to accept that their life wasn’t going to be as exciting as they expected, and that line not only features in the play/film, it also drives the entire story and characters.

The Whale is devastating to watch, while at the same time wickedly funny. Fraser gives a career defining performance, and one that will surely be heavily recognised in the upcoming award season. It just works in everyway.

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About ashleymanningwriter

Young Adult Fiction writer. Horror and fantasy blended together.
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3 Responses to The Whale – Film Review

  1. Tony Briley says:

    Not a movie I’d typically watch, but it sounds too good to pass up. Some of his roles have been minor, not to mention ridiculous, but Frazier has always seemed like a really good actor to me. Like Guy Pearce I’ve never understood how they haven’t had more superstar roles. Thanks for the insightful review, you got me to add this one to my watchlist.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ren Rivera says:

    you beat me twice since I cant find any window to watch The Banshees of Inisherin and The Whale. A helping hand is good in time of need. Seems Brenda aimed for an acting vehicle to just mellow on his role at No Sudden move, yet both films were independently produced. Cheers to your wonderful write-ups.

    Liked by 1 person

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