There is nothing more abhorrent than disparaging comments about one’s physical appearance whether it be verbal or written. These comments can be cruel, insensitive and ignorant at best. Recently, I personally was on the other end of such gruel remarks from a colleague, so this film struck a particularly, poignant chord.
Based on a 2012 play of the same name, The Whale takes us on the journey Charlie, a reclusive English teacher attempting to reconnect with his estranged teenage daughter Ellie (Sadie Sink) for one last chance at redemption.
Just one hiccup. Since the death of his partner, Charlie’s grief has led him to eating his feelings with nightly pizzas, no exercise except occasionally walking to and from rooms in his apartment and relying on his bestie and partner’s sister Liz (Hong Chau).
Director Darren Aronofsky usually known for unconventional subjects with his filmmaking tackles a sensitive issue of how and why people gain weight and the decisions made leading to being trapped in a body where one no longer recognize themselves.
What’s really interesting is that whales are often considered to be one of the most beautiful inhabitants of the oceanic water species who are tender and kind until provoked. When provoked they can become some of the most dangerous mammals you ever want to encounter. So, this title encompasses all of that from a human emotion through the life of one human and the lives his presences enhances or not.
The dichotomy ranging from the cruelty from those you love to strangers wanting to help with an agenda resonates to the core and makes you think twice about judgement when witnessing someone with a little extra on their hips, thighs or mid-section.
All of the performances are scorching ranging from Sadie Sinks’ spoiled and insecure Ellie to the deceptively agenda seeking Thomas (Ty Simpkins) to the unforgiving and scorned ex-wifey Mary (Samantha Morton). However, this is a total showcase for its star Brendan Fraser.
Fraser wholeheartedly conveys Charlie with heart and humility. He doesn’t make you pity Charlie, but rather makes you connect with the emotionality and paralyzation that an emotion such a grief grabs hold on one’s spirit physically and emotionally.
The Whale will push some buttons and incite many conversations around fat shaming. But, more importantly, the film and its performances will make audiences and critics alike re-evaluate their own fears and prejudices around their own waistline or others.