There's been little to no promotional material released to the world for Darren Aronofsky's The Whale, which seems incredibly fitting when its lead character hides himself away from everybody due to his appearance. It sees Brendan Fraser take the lead in a film for the first time in a long while, being a victim of sexual assault in Hollywood having a domino effect in the most tragic way on his once booming career. This is as much a redemption story for Fraser as it is for his character, his performance one sure to see him a main player in awards season. 

Charlie (Brendan Fraser) is a 600-pound reclusive college professor who hides himself away in his apartment. Past pain has led him to uncontrollably binge eat to cope but when his daughter, Ellie (Sadie Sink), shows up out of the blue, Charlie sees a chance to reconnect with his estranged daughter.
Based on Samuel D. Hunter's singular location stage play, Hunter writing the screenplay here as well, The Whale is one of the most impactful films of the year. Opening with a brilliant sequence where Charlie is teaching a class via video call yet telling his students his camera is broken, frustrating for them as they're all on camera. 

We've become accustomed to video calls over the pandemic and there's always people who don't want to appear on camera, I've done it myself. It's a simple concept yet it lets us know, even more so when we see Charlie, that he feels grotesque in the eyes of others despite his constant desire to eat his pain away, making for a fascinating character study. 

Charlie is grieving after losing his lover. It was a relationship that ruined those he had with his family, and he's been punishing himself ever since. What Darren Aronofsky and Samuel D. Hunter understand is that this isn't some freak show for everyone to come and gawp at Charlie, instead showing compassion for the man who wants to right a few wrongs before he bows out. The singular location of Charlie's apartment only adds empathy towards the character, trapped within the confines of the same four walls, albeit a result of his own doing. People deal with their grief in whatever way they feel best and watching Charlie binge eat beyond belief is something that could be played for laughs however it just makes you feel sad for him, scenes of intense binge eating signalling just how far he will go to cope.
The integral part to The Whale is Brendan Fraser's phenomenal lead performance, beneath a lot of make-up and prosthetics his emotion never gets lost. It might be mundane to keep hearing about it but it's one that simply has to be seen to be believed because there won't be a dry eye in the house when the film reaches its conclusion. Alongside Fraser are a pair of incredible supporting performances from Hong Chau and Sadie Sink, the former as Charlie's nurse and best friend who knows looking after him in his current state leads down one inevitable road, and the latter as his estranged daughter, appearing on his doorstep asking for academic help but getting more than she bargained for when she spends a bit more time with her father. Both are stubborn yet come with an emotional vulnerability that make their respective performances so captivating, Sink growing more into her role with each appearance.

The Whale is a story of redemption, Darren Aronofsky delivering a powerful film that crescendos to an incredibly fitting and awe-inspiring ending. The performances elevate it to greater heights, Brendan Fraser making a comeback with one of the greatest performances of the year. You've seen all the standing ovations he's received and I'm here to say believe the hype.

Verdict: ½


  1. Nice review. Makes me want to go catch it soon!


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