Review The Whale

Brendan Fraser suits up for this gripping Darren Aronofsky-directed adaptation of a play about a kind-
spirited and contagiously optimistic teacher named Charlie who makes a profitable living giving
online classes in English Writing from the comfort of his own sofa which he barely ever leaves.
Charlie was always a heavier fellow but partly due to the nature of his sedentary professional
occupation, he has let himself grow more and more obese over the past few years. As the story
progresses, we are granted more insight into the actual reasons for this unhealthy conduct which is
evidently bound to have fateful consequences in the not-too-distant future.
The movie spans the course of one week in which – without ever leaving the confines of his
apartment – we witness Charlie getting several visits mostly from his caretaker, Liz, and gradually
uncover bits of their history revealing the reasons for their current-day dynamics. He is also
reconnecting with his estranged teenage daughter which generates some of the movie’s most
poignant scenes as she exhibits rather rebellious and seemingly antisocial conduct typical for young
girls of that age made especially more prevalent considering the circumstances of their separation
years ago and the conditions of their recent re-acquaintance. Through these and some other
interactions we start to unravel Charlie’s tragic motivations driving his increasingly self-destructive
There is exquisite small-scale family drama and tension here which is enhanced greatly by the uneasy
nature of Charlie’s physical state. From the very first scene, it is made quite clear that his health is in
dire straits and at times it’s extremely nerve-racking to watch him simply go through his daily routine
in part because you know that the slightest cardiac overexertion could cause engine failure but also
because he is so grotesquely large there is a constant peril of him simply falling over and not being
able to get back up. The film wisely stays clear of any gratuitously comical or trashy or pathetic
portrayals, mind you. Instead there is a sense of profundity and elevation brought about by the
powerful orchestrations peppered throughout as well as the literary metaphors which tie in to the
online course he teaches. Remarkably, none of that has even an inkling of pretention to it. Rather it’s
all presented with great humanity and elegance creating a whole that seems to largely transcend the
sum of its little parts. The Whale is a beautifully constructed film with a curiously satisfying
conclusion and amazing performances throughout. Dive right in.

Loïc Charlier

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