“The Whale”


Letterboxd (4/5), Imdb.com (8/10)

The old saying about glass houses and not throwing stones seems fittingly apropos here, both for the characters in this story and the ever-so-cynical critics who have so unfairly and recklessly flung their condescending bile-laden assessments toward this offering. Director Darren Aronofsky’s latest tells the heartbreaking and heartwarming tale of a 600-pound gay man (Brendan Fraser) whose health is quickly failing and struggles to make up for past misgivings and to work out long-lingering self-worth issues during what time he has left, neither of which come easily and often seem insurmountable. At the same time, however, we also see a character who frequently and genuinely manages to see the best in people, despite having often been the object of cruel, unapologetic ridicule and needlessly hard on himself. It’s an outlook that few of us are able to imagine, let alone sustain, but, having been on the receiving end of both the good and the bad in others, he chooses to look for the best and to believe that such a benevolent attitude is our natural tendency, despite seeming evidence to the contrary. Now if he could only come to embrace the same view for himself. This thoughtful, insightful picture gives us much to contemplate (something many mercilessly ignorant, shallow-minded reviewers seem to have failed to grasp), reminding us to make the most of our beliefs during the short time we have in our lives. Admittedly, there are some segments in which the dialogue is somewhat awkward and stilted (even though the rationale behind this is ultimately revealed, even if a bit odd when initially introduced). But this modest shortcoming is more than made up for by the film’s superb ensemble cast (arguably the best I’ve seen thus year), with stellar performances by Fraser (truly deserving of this year’s best actor honors) and a fine crew of supporting players, including Sadie Sink, Hong Chau, Samantha Morton and Ty Simpkins. I truly feel sorry for those who have missed the message behind this excellent offering, but, then, if they’ve never walked in the shoes of someone like the protagonist, I suppose that’s understandable. For those who have been there, though (like myself), this is a moving tale that easily draws out the compassion in others – provided they have it to give in the first place (something I have to wonder about given some of the reviews I’ve read). If it’s something that the cynics have never had to contend with before, then maybe they’ll learn something from watching this release.