The Whale is Brendan Fraser’s return to form set to win a multitude of awards for this poetic weighted drama.
The Whale, directed by Darren Aronofsky, is already gaining traction from bookmakers as Brendan Fraser is poised to snap up the accolades for Best Actor.
The Whale was screened as part of the BFI London Film Festival 2022 where it had its European premiere. All words of this review were written entirely by the writers at Cinamore.
Rightfully so as The Whale is a beautiful story of Charlie (Brendan Fraser), a reclused morbidly obese English tutor, whose turn to obsessive gorging is the result of losing his partner.
With a week to live before Charlie’s heart gives way it becomes the opportunity to attempt to heal his relationship with his now closed-off daughter Ellie (Stranger Things‘ Sadie Sink) and manage the relationship, and future grief of his care assistant Liz (Hong Chau).
Entirely filmed in one location, and adapted from the book of the same name by Samuel D. Hunter who pens the screenplay for The Whale, there is a delicate act by Aronofsky in telling this painful story of Charlie’s demise.
Filmed with a tight aspect ratio, and with cinematography choices that restrict our ability to take in the scenes at their fullest creates a claustrophobic tone, as if to mirror the tightness and pressure Charlie feels under his grief.
There is a maturity to The Whale in how it tackles the eating disorder Charlie is suffering from, as while uncomfortable, it is how he chooses to cope. There are character beats for Liz whilst holding food that say everything in her silence.
For many, seeing a man of this disproportionate size would create negative visceral reactions. Repulsion, fear, anger, disgust and disappointment, and while there are scenes that certainly lean into this association most notably a scene where Charlie gorges on multiple fast foods at once, the subtones of every moment carry an earnest loss.
Charlie is aware of his own situation, his image, and his failings, but like the essay he treasures about Moby Dick, for audiences to have an unwavering belief that Charlie needs to change, much like how readers of the Herman Melville novel obsess alongside Ahab to catch his whale, is a failure to understand perspective, story, and reasoning.
The Whale by Aronofsky could therefore be argued as a continuation of Melville’s story told under a contemporary lens with its mirroring themes of challenge, loss, religion, and adversity.
Either way, Brendan Fraser is at the helm masterfully navigating his return to cinema screens with this breathtaking, emotional resurrection. Understanding fully the character, motives, and decisions that led Charlie to confront his whale one last time.
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