The Whale

Cast: Brendan Frasier, Sadie Sink, Hong Chau, Samantha Morton, Ty Simpkins
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Writer: Samuel D. Hunter

Darren Aronofsky brings his new feature film to the London Film Festival in the shape of The Whale. An emotionally charged drama telling the story of Charlie (Brendan Frasier), a morbidly obese online professor who is suffering with chronic depression. After being diagnosed with a fatal heart condition in the opening chapter, Charlie attempts to rekindle a broken relationship with his teenage daughter Ellie (Sadie Sink). 

Adapted from the stage play of the same name, The Whale ventures into dark corners and devastating moments as Charlie’s life is told through a plot that covers 5 days from the confines of his dank, dreary flat. 

Aronofsky directs this gut wrenching tale with creativity unlike any other. The story of Charlie’s character is supported by Lisa (Hong Chau), his best friend and nurse who packs and emotional punch in a flawless performance. Mary (Samantha Morton), Ellie’s mother and Charlie’s ex wife is only on the screen for a short time but steals every moment available to her as she approaches Charlie’s condition from her perspective. And Ty Simpkins who plays Thomas, a local New Church missionary with his own past trauma and sees saving Charlie as his religious calling. 

All the performances throughout this powerful character piece are breathtaking but the film is completely overshadowed by Frasier’s raw acting talent. The nuances in his projection of depression and grief are so perfectly matched with his emotional outrage. The current celebrations surrounding him are not unjustified. 

Various creative decisions throughout the piece help drive the horrors of Charlie’s past and the devastation he has faced but also pick up on the traumatic mistakes he has made throughout his life. His drive to support his daughter at all costs, regardless of how horrendously she treats him, are heartwarming. Aronofsky also makes the visionary decision of when to end the film, right at the crescendo, leaving the audience in stunned silence as a rapturous applause broke out over the closing music. 

An artistic masterpiece. 

The Whale