In Darren Aronofsky’s The Whale, we’re introduced to Charlie (Brendan Fraser), a reclusive English professor struggling with the personal relationships he has with his friend Liz (Hong Chau) and his estranged teenage daughter Ellie (Sadie Sink).

The choice to keep the action confined to a two bedroom apartment makes the entire experience very intimate and the 1.33 aspect ratio only heightens this intensity. But rather than feeling limited by these constraints, we’re allowed to really get to know who these people are and the complex relationships that tie them together. Aronofsky doesn’t shy away from their weaknesses, instead it’s through these faults that we’re shown their humanity. The closeness of this production seems to have allowed these actors space to deliver the beautifully raw performances necessary to live up to the screenplay written by Samuel D. Hunter, based on Hunter’s play of the same name. 

For a group of actors who are already known to be incredibly talented, Aronofsky still manages to bring to light some of their greatest work, including Fraser, who delivers the performance not just of his career, but of a lifetime. Hong Chau is remarkable, having endowed this film with a tremendous sense of tenderness and strength through her vulnerability. And it’s impossible to imagine anyone playing Ellie other than Sink, who’s obviously perfect for this role, with her ability to mask a great deal of sorrow behind a wall of sarcasm, forcing us to not only understand her pain, but to experience every bit of it as this wall crumbles. 

The Whale is one of those films that will stay with you for a long time. This devastating portrait of one man’s unyielding grief and his need to seek redemption through those closest to him, is handled with a great deal of empathy from Aronofsky, and will break your heart in two.



CAST: Brendan Fraser, Sadie Sink, Hong Chau, Ty Simpkins, Samantha Morton

DIRECTOR: Darren Aronofsky

WRITER: Samuel D. Hunter

SYNOPSIS: A reclusive English teacher living with severe obesity attempts to reconnect with his estranged teenage daughter for one last chance at redemption.