The Whale (2022) - 7/10
Despite all the awards hype, I know very little about The Whale. Other than it stars Brendan Fraser and he’s apparently rather good. He’s Charlie, a teacher running classes online, with his camera off. Hiding. Hiding because he’s overweight. Hiding because he’s ashamed. He’s lost and stuck. He’s not the only one. Thomas (Ty Simpkins), a new missionary in town, knocks on Charlie’s door. Not to save him with the word of god, well that’s his plan but Charlie’s past puts pay to that, first though to save him from a heart attack. This could all seem quite bleak couldn’t it. But with his friend, enabler and Nurse Liz (Hong Chau) and Thomas, he’s forced to face some reality, which is actually… well to be honest it is bleak. He’s reluctant though. Living alone in a dark house. Curtains drawn, not going outside. There’s a lot for Fraser to convey and he does do it well. Stubborn, wounded, self pitying, but… maybe not entirely lost. Reconnecting with his daughter Ellie (Sadie Sink), Charlie finds purpose. It’s an unconventional set up, filled with tough love, compassion and a surprising amount of humour. It’s not perfect, there’s very little left unsaid. It holds the audiences hand far too much, but I can’t fault Fraser or most of the cast for that matter. Sink is every bit the surly teenager as Ellie and her father battle through the things that bring them to the present and how to face whatever future is in store. Samantha Morton as Charlie’s ex-wife is a surprising weak link, but with themes of obesity, abandonment, religious hate, there’s a lot to get your teeth into. It’s far too long, it doesn’t play well, adapted from a play to a piece of cinema and the further we get in, the clunkier it feels. I can see why Fraser has got so much attention. It’s an arresting performance. It’s genuine. It’s thought provoking. It’s difficult to watch and it builds to a disarming finale… but it’s typical overblown. He’s not one for subtlety. I expected more and can’t help feeling this could’ve been done better.