The Whale
A devastatingly sad film with a very heart wrenching and often hard to watch lead performance by Brendan Fraser.

The Whale

A reclusive English teacher attempts to reconnect with his estranged teenage daughter.

A morbidly obese man tries to reconnect with his estranged teenage daughter in . Charlie () is a homosexual English professor who ballooned in weight after the tragic death of his partner. After having a near-fatal heart attack, Charlie is told by his nurse and friend Liz () that he will die within a week if he doesn't go to the hospital. However, Charlie refuses to go and instead tries to reconnect with his 17-year-old daughter Ellie (), whom he hasn't seen in nine years.

The Whale Synopsis

The Whale is a drama directed by Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream, The Wrestler, Mother!) and written by Samuel D. Hunter, adapted from his 2012 play of the same name. The film is a significant comeback role of Brendan Fraser, who plays a 600-pound man named Charlie, who has been prone to binge eating ever since his partner died of starvation due to being excommunicated from his church for being homosexual. The film's plot takes place over the course of a week, with the action never leaving Charlie's house. Over the course of this week, Charlie has conversations with his nurse friend Liz, his estranged daughter Ellie, dedicated missionary Thomas (), and Charlie's ex-wife Mary ().

My Thoughts on The Whale.

As the film starts by establishing that Charlie only has a week to live, The Whale sets itself up to be a devastatingly sad film. The film's title has a dual meaning, referencing Charlie's bulbous appearance and how he is inspired by an essay about the novel Moby Dick, the contents of which seem to mirror Charlie's life. Completely disappearing under his prosthetic fat suit, Brenden Fraser gives a very heart-wrenching performance that is often hard to watch, especially during the periods when Charlie resorts to binge eating.

I'm not going to delve too much into criticism against The Whale for perpetuating fat-shaming stereotypes. However, I will say there's a result the film features Brendan Fraser in a fat suit instead of casting an actual obese actor since the film provides glimpses of what Charlie looked like before he ballooned in size. While there is some derogatory language levied toward Charlie, including frequently being called disgusting, I wouldn't say that it is specifically fat shaming.

While The Whale is structured around the performance of Brendan Fraser, the film has a relatively solid supporting cast. Sadie Sink (Stranger Things) delivers a multi-layored performance as Charlie's estranged daughter Ellie and Hong Chau (Downsizing, The Menu) adds to her repertoire of memorable performances as Liz. Despite only appearing in a single scene, Samantha Morton is also memorable as Charlie's ex-wife Mary, who is the cyincal one opposite Charlie's opptomism.

The Whale is probably second only to Darren Aronofsky's 2000 breakthrough Requiem for a Dream when it comes to films of his I really enjoyed, but am in no rush to ever watch again. Brendan Fraser gives a performance of the lifetime in the film and only a heartless person wouldn't be in tears by the end. However, The Whale is still an incredibly difficult film to watch and you should go in not expecting it to be light viewing.

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Trailer for The Whale

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Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly is a freelance film critic and blogger based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.