The Whale Review

Sunday 5 February 2023

Plot: A reclusive, morbidly obese English teacher attempts to reconnect with his estranged teenage daughter.

Film: The Whale

Director: Darren Aronofsky

Writer: Samuel D. Hunter

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

The Whale is the story of Charlie (Brendan Fraser) a man who lost his partner and was unable to battle his grief, his depression led him to overeating to the point where he cannot leave his house and his life Is very much in danger. Charlie teaches English online and goes about his day much the same as anyone else would, despite the obvious challenges. 

Something I loved about this film is that when you first see Charlie, yes you are shocked and taken aback by the way he looks but just as quickly you accept it and he’s just Charlie. It then isn’t until moments like his heart attack scare or when he almost chokes on his sandwich that you are transported back to realising just how bad things are. Obviously, you aren’t under any illusion that his size isn’t a problem, but Brendan Fraser does such a good job at portraying the more everyday struggles like grief, a turbulent relationship with his estranged teenage daughter and yes, self-confidence, that you’re not constantly thinking about his weight. 

This is seen in the cast of characters who come into Charlie’s home. His daughter Ellie (Sadie Sink) is initially disgusted by his appearance but her main gripe with her father is that he hasn’t been in her life since she was eight years old. Jehovah’s Witness Thomas (Ty Simpkins) is again, initially shocked but is quickly keen to ‘save’ Charlie by having him join the religious group New Life and on the several occasions he returns, he isn’t fazed by Charlie’s appearance. 

Binge eating disorder is not something I’ve seen portrayed so graphically on the screen before and it was a tough watch at times. Charlie frantically searching the cupboards for anything to numb the pain, if you couldn’t feel compassion for him in that moment, I don’t know what to tell you. A character who deserves all your sympathy though is Liz (Hong Chau) who is equally dealing with her own grief, while also caring for Charlie through his, with the knowledge that soon she’ll be grieving her best friend before too long. She brings Charlie food, fuelling his disorder but the alternative she fears is worse. The Whale is a gut punch of a film and one I know will stay with me for a long time. 

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