A reclusive English teacher suffering from severe obesity attempts to reconnect with his estranged teenage daughter for one last chance at redemption.
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FULL SPOILER-FREE REVIEW @ https://www.msbreviews.com/movie-reviews/the-whale-spoiler-free-review-lff-2022 "The Whale earns its place in the "most tearful films of the year" list as it moves slowly yet efficiently towards its overwhelmingly emotional ending, especially elevated by the most subtly powerful & irrefutably moving performance of Brendan Fraser's career. The rest of the cast contributes to the construction of a character with whom tremendous compassion is produced, but it isn't an easily digestible movie due to its disturbing, uncomfortable moments. Darren Aronofsky presents a depressing, passionate, and, above all, brutally honest story about trauma, acceptance, and positivity. The filmmaker's lack of restraint may be a trigger for some, but the impact of his messages couldn't be more memorable. Bring tissues." Rating: B+
The Whale is a heart breaking story of our main character, Charlie (Brendon Fraser), as he tries to make amends for abandoning his daughter. Charlie is obese, an ailment that has manifested itself as a coping mechanism for a life of regret. In every scene and interaction this regret is worn by Charlie as a cloak of his past that will stay with him until his dying breath. This character is an immense undertaking and Brendon Fraser plays him perfectly. The emotion he delivers is palpable, which lends itself so seamlessly to scenes of raw sadness and despair. Not only is Fraser a highlight, but the entire supporting cast does an excellent job. Hong Chau is superb, and despite her tough, no nonsense, science focused exterior hides a deep and genuine connection with Charlie. She is incredibly hurt by the way he is treating his body, but is defenseless to his desires, resulting in her to continually feed his addiction. It is a brutal back and forth that is tackled with immense care. Sadie Sink is great as well, she is delivers a brutal performance that leaves the character of Ellie easily hatable with very little redeemable qualities. I understand that this was the point of her character, and by no means is this a knock on Sink's performance, but it felt like a bit much. She was too cruel, to the point of unbelievability, which took a bit away from the message that was trying to be delivered. The pace was a bit slow for my liking. I felt as if the Thomas subplot was a bit pointless and could have been cut from the movie with no ill effects. But despite my minor complaints, the movie is carried by fantastic performances, amazing cinematography and intense emotions that will leave many viewers pleased with their experience, but will not be for everyone. Score: 82% Verdict: Great
Yikes, but this second gay-themed outing for Brendan Fraser could hardly be more different from his 1998 "Gods and Monsters" one. Here his is the critically obese "Charlie" who has grown to a size where his health is in tatters and he has virtually no mobility as he regularly consumes two large pizzas for dinner and two great meatball subs for lunch. We learn quite quickly a little of what initially drove this man to this level of despair and as things begin to look terminal, we share his aspirations to reconcile with his daughter whom he left eight years earlier to be with his gay lover "Allan". Now for all I thought Fraser was superb in this film, I found Sadie Sink's performance as the truly selfish, conniving and odious daughter "Ellie" (upon whom he rather dotes) stole this for me. At times I really did want to shoot her! Ty Simpkins also does well as the well meaning god-squadder who finds his association with this dysfunctional family helps open his eyes too. Hong Chau performs well as his long suffering friend/nurse/confidante "Liz", and as mortality looms the characters are drawn into an increasingly angry, hostile environment that is full of bitterness, rancour and regret certainly, but maybe - just maybe - the slightest hint of reconciliation. Fraser will never deliver another performance like this again. Sure, his size and generally slothful demeanour are so far from the hale-fellow-well-met series of characters we have seen thus far in his career that they are bound to have an effect. His acting, though, is honest and emotional. His character is torn and distraught and he conveys that potently, especially in the scenes with his obnoxious daughter. The plot has an inevitability to it, which doesn't usually work so well for me - but here, it helps focus on the few interlinked stories and characters allowing little room for distraction. It's not without it's humour now and again, either. I've deliberately avoided reading about how he got to that size - somehow, knowing might spoil what is undoubtedly a tour de force from both him and Miss Sink. Brave and uncompromising - well worth a watch.
I doubt I can add much more to what has already been said about 'The Whale', but in a word: Bravo! Brendan Fraser truly is sensational in this role. I heard about all the acclaim and seen a few of the standing ovations he has received and all I can say is that it is unequivocally deserved. Truly outstanding from the first scene (yes, even with that... ha) to the very last. It's great to see the dude that I first saw as a kid in 'George of the Jungle' well and truly back in the game. One thing about Fraser getting all the (undoubtedly merited) plaudits from this Darren Aronofsky flick is that I didn't know what to expect from the support cast, and man are there some absolutely stellar performances behind Fraser. Sadie Sink, Ty Simpkins and Samantha Morton are top notch, though Hong Chau is a cut above that trio - brilliant stuff from her! There are some powerful scenes in there. I'm not one to cry with fictional works (my brain automatically knows it's 'fake', I can't help it) but man even I got major goosebumps and gut punches (pardon the pun?) from what's portrayed onscreen. Fraser, and Chau, are naturally the major reasons for that, but everyone - on and off the screen - deserves big props for this 2022 film. The definition of a must-watch.