March 30, 2023

An emotional yet disturbing film, “The Whale,” directed by Darren Aronofsky, follows the sequestered life of a morbidly obese English teacher. Starring Hollywood’s wildly admired Brendan Fraser, the film marks his return to the spotlight after a long absence. Fraser’s character, Charlie, seeks redemption from past mistakes and attempts to reconnect with his estranged teenage daughter Ellie (Sadie Sink).

Throughout the film, we see Charlie using his negative relationship with food as a form of self-harm. The scenes that portray this are so compelling that it was almost difficult to watch. Fraser’s performance truly captured the internal torment his character suffers throughout the storyline.

The A24 film seeks a more profound meaning as it portrays this story of redemption. Fraser’s performance is stellar, as the film explores the idea of faith in humanity and the damaging effects of utmost loneliness. The story unfolds into a marvelous web connecting each character, revealing deep, painful ties.

The saddest part of the film is subjective, whether it is the painfully realistic portrayal of how difficult life may be for people in similar situations as Fraser’s character or the crumbling father-daughter relationship that seems beyond repair.

Sink nails the role of “wounded teenager” as the audience can feel Ellie’s distaste for her father throughout the film. Even with Charlie in such a vulnerable state, Ellie cannot seem to find compassion for her father as he struggles through his daily life. Her character is a hard pill to swallow as the film shows a desperate father falling apart in front of the audience. Sink’s authenticity and commitment to the depth of her character prove that there are layers to Ellie’s emotions, and the film avoids the pitfall of boxing her into the rebellious-teenager cliche.

In classic A24 fashion, the film contained beautiful imagery and intense symbolism. Love was a recurring theme in the film. This theme was portrayed wonderfully by not only Fraser, but also his co-star, Hong Chau. Chau plays the role of Charlie’s caregiver Liz and, throughout the film, she shows how much she cares for him aside from her job requirements. Their complicated history and relationship demonstrate the extent of Liz’s concern for Charlie’s well-being.

The actors in the film all deliver stunning performances that showcase different emotions for the different sides of a difficult situation. “The Whale” is a captivating story worth watching, but be prepared with a box of tissues for this emotional experience that captures the complexities of life.

5 out of 5 stars.

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