Directed by Darren Aronofsky, The Whale tells the story of Charlie (Brendan Fraser), an online writing instructor who struggles with obesity. Weighing 600 lbs, Charlie feels embarrassed by his appearance and hides away from the world in his apartment. However, when heart problems threaten his life, Charlie refuses medical attention other than the care of his friend Liz (Hong Chau). Knowing that his life is coming to an end, Charlie reaches out to his estranged daughter, Ellie (Sadie Sink) in the hopes of finding some connection to her. At the same time, Charlie receives visits from a Thomas (Ty Simpkins), a door-to-door evangelist from New Life Church who begs Charlie to repent of his sin so that his soul might be saved before the end.
Having leaned into obscure metaphors with his previous films like mother! and Noah, The Whale takes a far more grounded approach for Aronofsky. Although the film features strong work from Sink, Chau and Simpkins, one cannot deny that the true star of the film is Fraser himself as he bares his soul in virtually every moment of the film. Despite being covered in makeup and prosthesis, his charm, humility and grace bleed onto the screen in one of the more remarkable performances in the past few years.
Based on the play written by Samuel D. Hunter (who also wrote the screenplay), The Whale is a piece the delves into the psychology of hurt while pleading for forgiveness and peace. With each passing scene, Charlie cries out with increasing frustration for the world to speak with authenticity. To him, honesty is the highest virtue and to say ‘one true thing’ is better than any written flourish.
Beautiful and moving, The Whale Is one of those pieces that could potentially transform the way one sees the world. Instead of dousing the film in metaphor, Aronofsky makes a plea for hope, love and, above all else, grace.
The Whale is now playing at TIFF ’22. For screening information, click here.