Whale of a Time

The Whale is a new film which released in cinemas a couple of weeks ago, and which I saw last Friday with Ben.

Brendan Fraser plays Charlie, an English teacher struggling with health problems caused by morbid obesity. He makes a living teaching courses online, never turning on his laptop camera. He orders pizza, ordering the delivery guy to leave it outside so he doesn’t have to interact.

Brendan Fraser wearing 'fat' make-up as Charlie in "The Whale"

Brendan’s only friend, Liz (played by Hong Chau) is a nurse who implores Charlie to go to hospital, but he refuses, not wanting to run up debts (that US healthcare system again).

Ty Simpkins plays Thomas, a Church missionary whose first encounter involves seeing Charlie in a compromising position (ahem) and subsequently decides it is his mission to save Charlie’s life, much to the chagrin of Liz who has had dealings with this church before.

Completing the cast is Sadie Sink as Charlie’s estranged daughter, Ellie, whom Charlie has not seen for years and now desperately wants to reconnect with.

The cast is great, but the star is undoubtedly Brendan Fraser, buried under a mountain of latex to make him look morbidly obese. This could easily have been a grotesque disaster, but Fraser gives an utterly compelling performance which carries the film. It’s impossible not to feel sympathy for Fraser’s character, as he wheezes and gasps his way around the apartment, struggling to even stand up. It’s fair to point out that some people have criticised the film for its portrayal of obesity – I suggest you watch and make up your own mind.

The film is set entirely in Charlie’s home, never venturing further than his bedroom or the front porch. This may be because of its roots as a stage play, but the film doesn’t need to go anywhere else. The claustrophobia adding to the tension, as Charlie declines over the course of a week.

Ben and I saw the film in a cinema where we were, shockingly, the only people in the auditorium. The people watching Magic Mike in the other screen missed something special. This film is an amazing experience, well worth two hours of your time. I hope Brendan Fraser, back in a leading role after a long time, gets some awards sent his way.