The Whale (dir. Aronofsky)

A reclusive, morbidly obese English teacher attempts to reconnect with his estranged teenage daughter.

Directer: Aronofsky. Starring: Brendan Fraser, Sadie Sink, Hong Chau.

The Whale is based off a play of the same name, which in knowing that really highlights the way in which this film has been made. It all pretty much takes place in what is effectively one room, with very little to no scenes happening outside of that space. It’s Charlie’s (Fraser) space – we are in the belly of the whale so to speak, see Aronofsky I can make shallow metaphorical references to Moby Dick too.

There’s a lot of that taking place across the film, Moby Dick references and metaphors, you’re probably now noticing that the title is one as well. The film even centres around one students interpretation of Moby Dick that Charlie reads as a dying wish to hear one last time. Moby Dick is far from the religious subtext that Aronofsky usually layers through his film, which is seemingly lacking here albeit for one out of the blue moment that would likey make the pope himself double take. Instead, the film leans on the great American Novel of Moby Dick, why you may ask, well for this admittedly clueless viewer, I could not figure out what Aronofsky was trying to say. It made no sense in Charlie being the Whale or Ahab or even both. None of those metaphorical tongue in cheek elbows at the audience really made anything sink in for me.

That’s not to say there is not any heart to this film, there is some real drama between Charlie and Sadie Sink’s Ellie and you can really grasp at the emotional tension and history between these two characters. Both actors giving terrific performances, it is absolutely sensational to see Brendan back on movie screens and I hope to keep seeing him and while this is a superb performance from Brendan – by the end of the story it does fall a little one note. I would put that down more to Aronofsky’s direction here which seems to forget he is shooting a film rather than a play, the actors here are having to do all the heavy lifting and try to extract story and meaning from what feels like the same interaction every 10 minutes – the daughter comes over, is repulsed by her dad, hes repulsed by himself and try to connect, end in sadness (repeat for 2 hours).

I think The Whale is an admittedly rare occurrence in plays adapted to films in which you turn away from it thinking it should of probably stayed a play.


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