The Whale (2023)

My self-proclaimed adoration for Brendan Fraser led me to a great deal of pride for his Oscar win, so it is no surprise to anyone that i needed to see this film. I missed its cinematic release – my local independent wasn’t showing it – and i waited patiently for Amazon’s usual one-time reduction in rent… and sat down to enjoy.

“Enjoy” is an interesting word, however.

Charlie is an englishtutor who refuses to turn on his webcam for his students; this is because the poor man is morbidly obese. Having lost his partner to suicide, he has retreated into a family box of KFC and Dominos deliveries. His only contact to the world is his long-suffering best friend and sister to his late boyfriend. The film kicks off with the introduction of a travelling Christian preacher and the start of a change in Charlie’s life, as he tries to reconnect with his estranged daughter from his first, heterosexual relationship.

Its not an easy watch, oh no. Brendan Fraser is brilliant, obviously, strapped up in a convincing fat suit and acting his heart out. His friend, Liz, played by Hong Chau, toes the line between loving friend and frustrated friend, providing some harsh drama and mild comedy as the need arises. Standout performance is Sadie Sink, rising from her Stranger origins to star in this Oscar winner. Big future for everyone’s favourite red-head. I called it with Saoirse Ronan in City of Ember and now look at her – i’m doing the same for Sadie.

The plot itself is fairly standard, to be honest. At no point was i blown away by plot twists or dramatic turns of fate. Unfortunately even the ending is pretty predictable, and very reminiscent of another Darren Aronofsky movie (which i won’t say because its a spoiler).

I struggled, actually, to like this film. I mean, yes, the performances are all excellent and i do believe Fraser deserves his Oscar, but … well, there are moments when i hesitated over the Off button. Not because it was rubbish, or boring, but because it was disturbing. And i don’t mean disturbing like womans-head-revolving or pencil-into-ankle disturbing.

I don’t mind sharing this but there was a moment when i had to pause the film and rush to the bathroom. And physically throw up. I was uncomfortable for a good 80% of the run-time, constantly frowning and listening to my stomach churn. I keep rooting for the poor man, asking him to stop, asking him to change. Hoping that his daughter might help him through things, that the world will get better for the poor man.

Its definitely worth a watch but i don’t think i can say i ‘enjoyed’ it. I ‘enjoyed’ Top Gun, or Sonic the Hedgehog…. i didn’t enjoy Schindlers List… but its still an absolute masterpiece. Don’t get me wrong, i’m certainly not comparing The Whale to one of the best movies EVER MADE, but its a Good Movie. If anything, it makes you think.

“Yeah, maybe i’ll have a salad tonight.”

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