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The Whale - Film Review

★★★★

Directed by: #DarrenAronofsky

Written by: #SamuelDHunter

 

As part of BFI London Film Festival 2022

Brendan Fraser in The Whale

In true Aronofsky style, his new film The Whale, adapted from a play of the same name, polarises audiences with its depiction of human redemption through a character suffering from severe obesity. The film is already causing a spike in discussion, for better or for worse, but the one thing that most are agreed on, is the breathtaking, star-reclaiming performance by its leading man, Brendan Fraser.


Charlie is a character that is greatly flawed. He felt forced to leave his wife and daughter for the man he loved, and deeply regrets losing touch with them. He longs for redemption, to repair the fractured relationship he has with his teenage daughter. A quick glance at this film would have you believe it’s a spotlight on mistreated Hollywood royalty in a “fat suit,” but it’s actually more than that. Though the focus on Charlie’s obesity comes into play for a lot of key scenes—in fact, we’re restricted to his apartment just as he is—it doesn’t feel exclusively glued to it. Underneath that suit, is an actor gripping on, to climb back to the top. After over a decade of no big starring roles, Fraser returns to the scene with a powerfully rich and textured performance. Themes of guilt, regret, self-loathing, and sexuality are weaved within the fabric of this film, and above all else, a glimmer of hope. Charlie remains tremendously hopeful regardless of his situation. He’s deeply tormented from an event that made him what he is, but he clings on to that sliver of hope inside of him.


The Whale will be bashed by some while also being adored by others. If you know Aronofsky’s work, then you’d expect no less. While the positives greatly out-weigh the negatives, I do think it’s difficult to gift this film ultimate praise. This film had me captivated from the uncomfortable opening moments. But, somewhere in the middle it falters due to the film’s weakest character, played by Ty Simpkins. His character just feels very confusing and misplaced, and while Simpkins’ performance is great, this character just makes the film sag and drag almost every time he’s on-screen. I also found the daughter character, played by an outstanding Sadie Sink, to be quite underwhelming. The father-daughter relationship is both convincing and unconvincing, but one thing can be said with full confidence; Fraser and Sink are a magnificent pairing.


Without speaking too much on the plot and giving too much away, I’ll place focus back onto the positives. The Whale is expertly directed, brilliantly shot and scored. It features a small, intimate cast that breathes life into these characters. One of the best parts is the bond that was created between Fraser and Hong Chau. Their chemistry is beautiful; you really feel the tension within their character’s friendship. This really is a film that attempts to go deeper, and it’s up to you to decide whether it does so successfully. Though I was enjoying the film for the performances alone for most of the runtime—I found it hard to connect—that was only until the final 15 minutes, where it pulled me right in, entirely. The way Aronofsky captures the conclusion to his adaptation left me and the entire audience at LFF speechless. That was until the credits rolled and everyone around me began to stand up from their seats, applauding and cheering for several minutes straight. And for that moment, I was right there with them.


BFI London Film Festival 2022 runs from October 5th - 16th, for more info visit: https://whatson.bfi.org.uk/lff - #TaryllBaker

 

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