VIFF Film Review - The Whale (2022)

Still image of Brendan Fraser in The Whale.

I was so happy that I got the chance to see “The Whale”, starring Brendan Fraser at VIFF. It’s had a ton of buzz already and there’s already predictions that Brendan Fraser will be nominated for an Oscar for this role. “The Whale” premiered at the Venice International Film Festival in September where the film won three awards. It also screened at Toronto’s film festival as well where Brendan Fraser won the actor award.


The story is based on a 2012 play about a man named Charlie who lives a very solitary life. He basically never leaves his home, having food delivered by a friend or delivery person and he even works from home. Charlie has been battling severe grief after losing his partner and he hasn’t been taking care of himself. He frequently binge eats and refuses to see a doctor even though his friend pleads with him to go to the hospital. His health is so bad that he doesn’t have much time left and he decides to reach out to his estranged teenage daughter because he wants to get to know her before it’s too late.


I gotta say the special effects team did an incredible job on the prosthetics. I’ve seen films where the character is wearing a suit to make them look larger, like Anthony Hopkins in Hitchcock. I couldn’t get over the fact that I was watching Anthony Hopkins in a prosthetic suit. It took me right out of the story. But the prosthetics in this film are incredibly believable.


Brendan Fraser’s performance was outstanding. He brought so much depth and authenticity to the character of Charlie. It is a very sensitive issue to portray a character that is obese. I do wonder if some of the scenes where Charlie is binge eating or showering will be seen as exploitive or fat phobic. I did hear a couple of men joking about one of the binge eating scenes as we left the theatre. That made me sad because they’re missing the point. Charlie is a depiction of a person who was depressed and suffering from overwhelming grief. The point of the film is to have compassion for him, not judge him based on his size. For me, it was a deeply moving film and I absolutely loved it.


"The Whale" is set to be released in the United States this December, fingers crossed it comes to Canada too.


The 41st Vancouver International Film Festival runs September 29 – October 9.

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