Brendan Fraser in The Whale

Brendan Fraser is fantastic. That much is obvious. I’m really pleased to see his return to Hollywood. I would love to see him in more films. This more-gritty version suits him well, I think. If you’ve not seen it, The Whale — an A24 production — is a stellar film that really deserves a viewing. Despite my glib title for this post, it’s surprising just how much weight and gravity this film carries for such a small story.

Ultimately, we have one location, one main character, and, thankfully, no silly CGI or weirdos wearing costumes. Instead, we have Brendan Fraser as a hyper-obese English teacher, working remotely and essentially invisibly at the end of his laptop. The shame he has for his size is palpable throughout. We’re introduced to his estranged daughter whose hatred and disgust for him is on full display. Then we have his friend, the sister of his former husband, and a preacher. These three secondary characters orbit Fraser like moons, each affected by his mass of character and exerting their own manifest influence upon him in return. No character here is ‘good.’ No character is simply one thing fitting into a predetermined beat-sheet requirement. What we have here is a collection of broken individuals trying desperately to find hope in their lives. It’s a messy, difficult, tragic, and sometimes disgusting experience, and yet, I came away feeling more human for having digested it.

I went in expecting to feel sympathy for Fraser’s character, but it goes well beyond that. In truth, Fraser’s character is not necessarily a ‘nice guy.’ I won’t spoil it here, but suffice it to say his past is familiar to those from broken homes. It doesn’t shrink away from the infallible nature of parents and humans in their singular selves or their search for happiness that is almost never a linear path. But neither does it cast the protagonist as unredeemable. There are shades of personality here that are almost completely missing from most Hollywood productions these days.

Simply put, this film has more heart than the entire Marvel franchise put together. It’s so utterly human and tragic that one can’t help but to be moved by it. That’s not to say I’m against films for entertainment; I’m not. It’s just that I think the pendulum has swung too far into films where you’re obligated to leave your brain in the popcorn machine and simply clap along as the keys are jangled in front of you.

What we tend to get with A24 films is honesty. I’ve loved every one of their films I’ve seen so far, and I would highly urge anyone to prioritize their titles. We need them like never before–as well as more indie producers. In a world where everything is getting squeezed and controlled and only those already at the top are allowed to succeed, films like The Whale are becoming rarer, and that’s really sad, in my opinion.

Films and art can be about more than just distraction and effects. I, for one, want more meat on the bones, and The Whale certainly has that in buckets.

Bravo, Mr. Araonofsky and team. Bravo, Mr. Fraser and cast.

The Whale: