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The Whale (2022) | Review

By Jana Neimanns

Rating: 4.5/5

Courtesy of Alamy Stock Photo

The psychological drama The Whale is currently screening in cinemas after initially being released in limited theatres in the US at the end of December 2022. Flagship actors like Brendan Fraser—who drew attention to himself with The Mummy movies, Sadie Sink (who we’ve known through her role as Max in Stranger Things) and Hong Chau play primary characters.

The movie starts with Charlie teaching his college online course and specifically not showing his face through the camera. The obese college professor starts to wheeze after the course and is dependent on his friend and nurse, Liz, to look after him. The Whale continues to show Charlie’s struggle with congestive heart failure and his attempts to reconnect with his teenage daughter and ex-wife before his impending death.

The emotional struggle and heartache all the characters face are conveyed very well by the actors. Charlie turned much more obese after his boyfriend’s death, which gives us an insight into how much their love must have meant. He was estranged from his daughter and ex-wife at the time, so his support system was almost non-existent, which makes it even harder to overcome someone’s death. He found his consolation in eating more and more food. Emotional eating is something the movie touches upon again and again. Multiple scenes in the movie reveal Charlie eating a ton of fast food in response to an uncomfortable feeling. Seeing a movie depicting eating a lot of food as a coping mechanism is quite refreshing, because people struggle with all kinds of hidden things and can get judged rather easily. So, The Whale seems to be giving an insight into someone’s reason for being the way they are.

Hong Chau played Charlie’s friend and nurse Liz. Her fight with accepting her friend’s death and the inability to help is depicted so truthfully. Charlie is unwilling to go to the hospital, leaving her to do the best she can to make him comfortable. Keeping a straight face while knowing her friend is about to die is truly sad and hard, but Hong Chau portrayed it graciously.

One filming technique noticeable in The Whale is using a square 4 by 3 ratio. The movie was filmed to show each day roughly a week before his death, and it ends with Charlie walking towards the light. The effect of this is that the viewer is fully drawn into the movie’s plot. It frames what you learn about each character and limits your knowledge. The movie is also limited to Charlie’s apartment, which centres the viewer’s perspective around Charlie’s.

The Whale was quite an intense movie, that tried to depict how obese people are treated in society and their feelings on the matter. Charlie’s daughter used some mean language at times, that was justified by their difficult relationship. Other times, people’s reaction to Charlie’s appearance was handled suitably.

In conclusion, The Whale is a movie worth watching. Following Charlie’s last days is heartbreaking and eye-opening. The movie’s message is that every person is worth someone’s compassion and deserves respect. People do not reach a certain point in life for no reason, there is a story behind everything in life, and The Whale uncovers just one story out of so many that people grapple with day-to-day.


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