Darren Aronofsky’s universe is one of the most interesting. The New York filmmaker has always challenged the audience with his proposals. The Whale (2022) is his most recent film and with it, he reaffirms the previous approach, after causing a sensation at the Venice and Toronto film festivals, the film began its commercial circuit. All eyes have focused on its protagonist Brendan Fraser and specialized critics have not stopped insinuating that Fraser has conceived the best role of his career. Aronofsky has faded into the background while the shadow of his Whale seems to overshadow him.
Charlie (Brendan Fraser) is a teacher dealing with the problem of morbid obesity. He spends his days confined to his home and hidden behind a computer monitor from which he connects with his students without ever showing his face. Accepting the reality of his increasingly precarious health situation, Charlie decides to make one last effort to connect with his teenage daughter. The screenplay by Samuel D. Hunter is based on the play of the same name written by Hunter himself. As if we were in front of the stage, the film version confines us to a single setting and this resource works as an analogy for the physical and emotional prison that Charlie’s character faces.
Do you ever get the feeling that people are incapable of not caring?Charlie
Only an essay on Moby Dick seems to heal Charlie’s broken soul. Reciting it and listening to it fills him with life and peace. His obesity is more than a physical handicap, it is an emotional barrier that isolates him from the environment. Liz (Hong Chau) is his only connection to what exists outside those four walls of his apartment. His routine is broken when he decides to restore his relationship with his daughter Ellie (Sadie Sink), at this point the script engages us in its first conflict and drags us into the dramatic knot of the story. Aronofsky leans all his strength on Fraser’s masterful performance. It is impossible not to connect with his character and appropriate his emotions.
The Whale is not a one-man job. Fraser’s backing cast also shines, starting with Hong Chau as Nurse Liz and following Sadie Sink as the irreverent Ellie. Both are a perfect complement for the central character to find the rhythm. Among the dialogues, we find the most obvious themes that emerge from the family drama but also other subtexts of harmful social stereotypes, discrimination, and ethical dilemmas that are confronted with positions of religious ideologies. Within Darren Aronofsky’s filmography, this is only the second feature film in which he does not collaborate on the script. This only happened in The Wrestler (2008). His universe flashes for brief moments when he gives us some dream escapes that evoke his roots. The Whale is a very well-executed film with phenomenal performances that at times seem to be above the staging.