The Whale (2022) Movie Review – A one-room drama that Brendan Fraser carries on his capable back

A one-room drama that Brendan Fraser carries on his capable back

The Whale is a one-room play adapted for the silver screen by Darren Aronofsky known for his surreal dramas which we do see a hint of in this film. It follows a week in Charlie’s life, a morbidly obese English teacher who realises he is dying after he refuses to go to the hospital when he gets congestive heart failure.

Instead, he tries to accept his fate, spends some time with his only friend Liz, has a discourse with a random missionary and reaches out to his angry teen daughter whom he abandoned when she was young.

As we enter the movie ready to bawl our eyes out from the very beginning, Brendan Fraser gives us his all as Charlie. This film is worth the hype purely for Brendan and Brendan only, as it pretty much secures his Oscar win. It deserves to be called the Brenaissance or his comeback or whatever he likes as he carries the whole movie on his capable and prosthetic back.

Along with watching it, the whole making of The Whale is an experience on another level as the movie used complicated prosthetics instead of taking the easy way out with CGI for Charlie’s body, earning an Oscar nomination for Makeup and Hair too. Of course, all of the technical aspects are top-notch as it all comes together neatly to give us a suspense drama in one location.

From the haunting music that reaches a crescendo and tight shots to verbalise Charlie’s emotions, to the dark but soothing colour grading that makes us feel like we are present in his tiny flat, The Whale does its best to keep us hooked. Its well-paced and tightly-edited structure keeps the interest going which could otherwise easily fail and get boring by giving us Thomas’ shocking and multiple reveals and Alan’s heartbreaking story.

Despite The Whale being about just one man, all of the other characters are also written well from Nurse Liz to the missionary Thomas and Charlie’s ex-wife Mary. But the constant anger they display in the face of Charlie’s optimism sometimes does feel overwhelming.

And unfortunately for promising child actress Sadie Sink who plays Charlie’s daughter Ellie, she has no character arc as she gives us an intense but one-note performance. Sure, the audience understands why Ellie is angry, but the scriptwriter should have worked hard on her redemption. 

If the ex-wife could have a range in her character graph in one just one scene, so why can’t the daughter have an arc too? Just that one spark, at the end of the film, is not enough to forgive Ellie for how she was for the rest of the movie. Even if it is not realistic for a person to change in a week, how did they make it work with the wife?

Using Mary as a template, the writer should have tweaked the story or the other characters to make Ellie’s story work with the plot. If Charlie was not so optimistic, maybe her character would have worked. But with him continuously being positive and forgiving, it just makes her bad, she is not a grey character unlike Thomas, but a downright badly written character. This is a story about redemption, and everyone gets it except Ellie.

But that doesn’t overshadow the beautiful moments in the film from Charlie’s epiphany to his friendship with Liz. It also tells us the importance of love and how that is enough via some touching dialogues just like how Charlie gave Alan the maximum amount of love right when he needed it. And while Liz abandons Charlie as a friend because she tries to be selfish and avoid losing a loved one, she returns as a nurse because he needs her.

All in all, The Whale is an adequate adaption of a one-room play, using a cinematic format and exceeding the limitations of the stage while still being faithful to it. While it is not brilliant, from the talented cast to the plot, it does its job of telling us a bittersweet story.


Read More: The Whale Ending Explained

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  • Verdict - 7.5/10

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