Larger than life

Brendan Fraser’s performance fills the screen in The Whale – literally – and it would have been a much better film if that was the long and short of it, says Times reviewer Matthew Dann


EVER since its maiden screening, the film world has been raving about The Whale (2022), and in particular Brendan Fraser’s performance. So in order to find out if it lived up to the hype, I went along to see it.

The synopsis for this movie is a simple one. A morbidly obese, reclusive online teacher seeks to reconnect with his estranged daughter before it is too late.

The movie tries to add deeper levels – for example, there is a lost lover, and a subplot about the estranged wife and daughter – but all of these really just detract from the central story, rather than adding any real value.

However, I can see why so many people are in awe of Brendan Fraser’s performance.

He plays Charlie – the ‘Whale’ of the title – and it is easy to see why there has been so much praise for the actor, better known for his wildly different roles in movies such as The Mummy and George and the Jungle.

Fraser dominates both the screen and the narrative, effortlessly portraying his character to the point that you could be forgiven for thinking that he is not even acting. At times it feels as though you are watching a documentary.

However, I am afraid to say that this is as far as this film went, for me.

I do not really want to linger on the performances and stories of the other characters, as they really aren’t worth talking about much.

Sadie Sink plays Ellie, Charlie’s estranged daughter. Yet despite the importance of the estrangement to Charlie, I felt she was rather one-dimensional. Ellie is essentially a stroppy teen – in many ways similar to the character Sink plays in Stranger Things.

The character who shares most screen time with Brendan Fraser is his nurse, Liz, played by Hong Chau. And yet I did not feel any connection to her character, who added so little to the film.

The same can be said for Ty Simpkins who plays Thomas, the missionary who wants to save Charlie. He was something of an annoyance.

All in all, I would have rather watched two hours of Brendan Fraser’s character alone on screen.

He carries the film so well, and his journey and story are worth investing time in, such that it feels unfortunate we have to suffer the other characters and pointless subplots of the film.

If this film wins awards, let us be clear on one thing – it will be because of Brendan Fraser and him alone.

As a final thought, I have always avoided a scoring system, as I feel that each individual has their own likes and dislikes. I feel it worth noting, though, that the scores I have seen for this film are heavily inflated.

The Whale is now showing at the Odeon, Tunbridge Wells.

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