“Look at me. Who would want me to be a part of their life?”
Story: Charlie has lived a life filled with ups and downs…but during the past several years, they’ve been downs. His partner Alan passed away awhile back, leaving Charlie with a best friend in Alan’s sister Liz, and an unforgiving frenemy in food. As Charlie’s health declines, Liz worries he’s only got about a week left to live. Meanwhile, a young missionary named Thomas tries to save Charlie’s soul, and Charlie’s estranged daughter Ellie comes back into his life, though she might be just as broken as Charlie. Hell, they’re all broken. Who want’s a hug, y’all?
Genre I’d put it in: The Really Really Good A24 Stuff
Release Date: 2022
Remake, Sequel, Based-On, or Original: Based on the play of the same name by Samuel D. Hunter (who happened to write the screenplay for this film adaptation)
Gotta say: Oh. You’re still here after reading this title of this review? Well then, let me just say this; yeah go ahead get your avatar on if you want to. I know I’ll end up seeing it sooner or later. But go see The Whale first. Or, if you’ve already seen Avatar, go see the well right now. Believe me, all the hype that’s been spinning around about this movie? Absolutely 100% correct. This movie is breathtaking, heartbreaking, emotionally uplifting, and will destroy you. And damn if you won’t feel all the things. It’s moving and amazing and I will die on this hill. And I will not apologize for my love. This movie is just that good; I’m sending you pure stream of consciousness right now, and I am not ashamed.
You’ve probably heard the buzz around this film. Brendan Fraser’s “comeback” performance (like he isn’t awesome in Doom Patrol). One of the best films of the year. Of the decade, and it’s only 2022. Director Darren Aronofsky’s most approachable, yet also most incredible, work. I agree with all of that. But this isn’t just so much buzz signifying nothing. This is a film worthy of repeat viewing, if only to experience it from different points of view. First, to let yourself get swept up in the emotions, and the incredible, lived-in performances from the entire cast. And damn, this cast is top-notch. Firstly, Fraser lets you see Charlie’s inner fight, his balance between self-loathing, deep despair, fear, and a small flame of hopeful optimism about the world despite everything he’s been through. He punishes and soothes himself with food, and Whale shows you exactly how this particular character deals with his obesity, his health, and his love/hate relationship with food. It’s not trying to make blanket statements about people as a group, but this one man’s breakdown, and how he’s living…and dying. It’s breathtaking, and Fraser deserves all the awards he’s sure to win this award season.
Aronofsky lets his actors fully inhabit their characters, and it feels like the director is using a delicate touch, when in fact each moment feels powerful and filled with artistic purpose. So the second viewing? Yeah, that one should be for diving into the artistry of this film, and all the little touches that make it so compelling. The art direction, complete with set design that paints a picture of an intelligent, but broken, man. Costuming, that shows characters like Ellie, Liz, and Thomas change, grow, or stay firmly rooted in their own head for one reason or another. (Spoiler: it probably feels safe there.) And the cinematography that’s both gritty and laser-sharp, showing the dichotomy of these characters big brains, and the complicated emotions that waylay them. I found myself tearing up in the best way; the kind of tears that mist, then ease out of your eyes in a mix of heartbreak, bittersweet joy, and hope. Yes, I am aware that those are strange emotions to mix together, but trust me when I say that’s exactly what Whale will pull from you. And you will not mind one bit.
To be honest, I’m more of an A24 horror/fantasy gal myself. X, Climax, The Lobster, Saint Maud, Midsommar, and the incredible Under the Skin, and many more, live rent-free in my head. But there are only one or two dramatic works from this studio that truly stuck with me. The Farewell is one I can call forth immediately. The Whale will be another. Go see this one. It’ll blow you away.
#Protip: If you or someone you know needs a shoulder, or just someone to vent to? Here’s a list of helplines worldwide, sorted by country. You are not alone. You are someone incredibly special. And you are more than fucking worthy of the wonderful space you take in this world. This world would not be the same without you. I’m serious; you matter.