REVIEW: “The Whale” invites viewers to sail away in an emotionally-charged look at humanity


Keira Lee / Hilltop Views

“The Whale” is a pshycological drama that follows a secluded English teacher in his attempts to reconnect with others, including his alienated daughter.

A deep insight into the psychological drama “The Whale” reveals what it truly means to understand the emotional trauma and suffering that lives in the world and to have compassion and show forgiveness toward the suffering and the misunderstood.

Entering 2023, films like “Avatar: The Way of Water,” which accumulated a grand total of over $1.972 billion in box office sales making it the sixth highest-grossing film of all time, have generated massive revenue at the box office. However, an A24 film with a much smaller budget of $3 million by the name of “The Whale,” as opposed to the whopping $250 million that was used for “Avatar: The Way of Water,” has entered the theater, gracing audiences with the return of Brendan Fraser, best known for his roles in “The Mummy,” “School Ties” and “Journey to the Center of the Earth”.

“The Whale” unveils the buried emotions in each of its characters. On the surface, the film is about being a better person than the day before. However, it delves much deeper into what drives resentment and insight into what true agony is. The film is based on playwright Samuel D. Hunter’s play “The Whale,” originally published in 2014.

“The Whale” sets the entire story in the protagonist’s dreary apartment in a small town in Idaho. The protagonist, Charlie (Brendan Fraser), is an English instructor who teaches online courses for college students. But Charlie faces a myriad of physical and mental plagues in his life. He’s extremely reclusive,  chronically obese and is constantly living every day in pain and struggle. He also left his wife and daughter Ellie (Sadie Sink) for a man named Alan, who recently died. Charlie has only two regular visitors, his nurse and best friend, Liz (Hong Chau), and Thomas (Ty Simpkins), a young missionary who recently moved into town to serve a church organization called New Life Church.

Most of the film is undeniably and irrefutably depressing given Charlie’s physical and mental conditions. He is constantly punishing himself for not being a good father to Ellie or there for Alan when Alan needed him most. However, there is a hopeful light at the end of the tunnel for Charlie once he decides to gain control of his life and take a step in the right direction. It should be good to note that there are many motifs and symbolic references to Herman Melville’s “Moby-Dick” throughout the film.

This film is a deeply and powerfully emotional piece making it raw and passionate as well. The film has few characters, but each faces intricate and complex conflicts that affect them. Because of these reasons, “The Whale” deserves four out of five goats because, despite the bleak and depressing nature of the film as a whole, it presents serious issues with a deep and creative insight into issues such as why humanity behaves a certain way and how people can sometimes be cruel and other times kind.

The streaming rights for “The Whale” are still pending once the film exits theaters. This film will soon be available to rent and purchase on platforms such as Amazon Prime. However, Darren Aronofsky, the film’s director, highly recommends that audiences should view “The Whale” in theaters.